As a parent, it may feel like it's just too much. After all, we didn’t have most of this tech when we were growing up. People had to leave answering machine messages or - horror! - try to reach us when we were actually at home. We were free to play outside without thinking about text messages, phone calls, emails, alerts and other digital disruptions. Many parents worry that their kids aren't having the same childhood experience and that technology may be robbing them of important life skills and relationships. When is it too much?
Different Isn't Necessarily BadIt's important to remember that each generation grows up in a different world. This isn't necessarily a "bad" thing. Think back to when you were a teen. What changes did your parents disapprove of? Clothing? TV? Music? Too much time on the phone? You can probably make a list of things your parents simply didn't like. In retrospect, which areas where they off base? Which areas where they on target? Make the comparison to the things that frustrate you today to try to keep things in perspective. It can help you decide which changes you can live with, and which are worth fighting against.
When is a Problem Really a Problem?It may annoy you that your teen is forever texting friends, or that your child seems to prefer video games to other forms of entertainment. The question to ask yourself is whether or not there is truly a problem. You may not choose a video game over another activity, but that doesn't make it a less valid choice. You might not like to be constantly connected to other people, while your child may find it comforting or fun. It becomes a problem when it is negatively impacting their health, education, general well-being or their relationships with friends and family.
Be a ParentAs overwhelming as the onslaught of technology may feel, it's simply not acceptable to throw your hands in the air and complain about technology without doing anything about it. If there is a genuine problem, it's time to set rules and boundaries. Here are some examples:
- No cell phones at the dinner table, or between the hours of 5:30 and 7pm.
- Homework and chores must be finished before you're allowed video game time.
- No tech in bedrooms at night.
- Getting grounded from technology or a particular gadget are valid punishment options if they are appropriate for the "crime."
- Time restrictions on video games, social media and other tech can be imposed, especially if your child isn't regulating their own usage.
- It's OK to say no to a new gadget or device. Sometimes that's what parenting is all about.