Childhood starts pretty much the same way for most people. Kids are born and slowly learn to crawl, walk, run and then race. As a parent, keeping our kids safe means keeping them from falling down stairs, running into roads and licking light sockets. We get through each day by making sure our kids are fed, dressed, clean and alive!
Adolescents have a very different world to navigate. The rise of hyper-connected technology has affected our teens through higher rates of anxiety and social pressures all the while lowering intimacy in friendships. As teens further withdraw into their phones, they find themselves increasingly isolated from friends and family. Worth and value are now measured in likes, streaks and shares.
I often get frantic phone calls from parents saying “we don’t know what to do or how to navigate this, I can’t understand how my son or daughter has become swept up in this inappropriate use of technology!”
Teens quickly feel a sense of entitlement to have access to phone and technology and they do not want limits. To be honest, this is ridiculous! Parenting has never been about pushing our kids out of the nest into a world without any tools, so we aren’t going to do it with technology either. Every child is unique and will develop the maturity to handle technology at different stages. You know your teen and you know what they can handle, so ultimately you decide.
Think back to when you had a toddler, when she wanted to run free and didn’t want to be held back by you. Let’s imagine she’s running toward the road at full speed. What did you do? You ran like the flash to get between her and the imminent danger. You said “this isn’t safe, I’ll hold your hand”. You didn’t stop him from ever crossing the road again, you started by teaching him to look both ways. Eventually you trusted her enough to let go as long as she stayed right by you
Put filters on their phone, watch what they are doing, pay attention to what is going on. Circle with Disney is a system that has positive reviews for providing appropriate boundaries with kids as they begin to navigate this new world of technology. However, the truth is, you are not going to protect them from every negative comment, bad feeling or mistake that they make with social media. We can do our best to put boundaries in place so that we can help them navigate through it when it happens.
Start talking with your kids about these things at an early age. My 7 year old has already started asking for a phone. Now, I know that he is not at all ready for this, but he already has an awareness of kids using these devices. We can start talking about managing safety and time with TV and video games. Start creating patterns of open communication and instilling honesty and personal responsibility. If you are anything like me, we are all still trying to figure out how to find balance in this for ourselves. Let’s be honest with kids and validate that it is hard. Let set up structures to relieve the pressure where we can ALL take a break from technology and connect more deeply with each other. Invite their friends to your house, provide lots of snacks and create a home environment that is filled with laughter, love and connection. Teens are desperate for this connection; let’s make it available to them!