Feeling Panicky about Social Media, Video Games, Advertising?

Posted: July 6, 2019

Modern parents have a huge assignment, one that their parents didn't have to deal with: keeping their kids safe from input from electronic devices.  There's the ever-present phone, the child's quick vulnerability to quick addiction to games, and the land-mine of social media, where bullying can devastate your child's life.  

When  I posted on this topic on Parenting Mojo's Facebook page, I got a big response.  So I'm writing today to offer some tips, but more importantly, to offer some care and concern for you as a parent.  I look around at all the stressors involved with raising children, and it's often overwhelming to think how much is involved.  "When I was a kid" :-) we were raised on benign neglect, left to our own devices to navigate a much-less-scary world.  We were on our bikes until dark, playing "kick the can" after dark, and generally roaming free until we got hungry.  Our parents were drinking, smoking, playing cards - in their own world, and only making sure we showed up eventually.  We worked around the house as a matter of expectation, not "reward-oriented," and we did our homework alone.  In two short generations, the game is completely changed.  

I have to say that this type of childhood was great for growing into our confident selves.  We had to make a lot of decisions and test the world to find out what worked and what didn't, often with no input from adults.  We learned to count on ourselves, for better or worse.  

But the world has evolved to one where adult input seems much more pressing.  Too many horror stories are online for parents to read - about abductions, sex trafficking, child suicide from bullying, and game addictions that rob kids of their childhood.  We have to wonder if technology, with all its benefits to our lives, is really such a good thing in the big picture.  

So the tip I want to offer is a weekly screen-free family meeting.  These meetings can center you and your children on your values, and help you to make group decisions on screen time and content limits.  More importantly, the mere having of a meeting communicates loudly that "our family matters."  As a bonus, children learn that their input is respected and that they need to consider adults' perspective, too.  That's why it's vital to keep talking until you can all agree on the limits.  You want to raise thinkers, not order takers, so have these meetings to get your kids thinking about why there are limits on screen time.  Help them realize why adults have to  monitor their devices, which is that you are doing the modern parents' job of keeping them safe, not just trying to control them (a frequent mis-interpretation on their part.) 

If they say, "Other kids' parents don't do this!" be patient.  It's a fact that many others don't.  Your response can be that you don't have a role in other families' decision-making, but you do in yours and it's extremely important that you raise your children with your values.  They may balk at this, but underneath, know that they feel more secure in your love for them when limits are certain.  

And don't forget the present moment as your main parenting tool.  Maybe you've made some mistakes in the past about screen time and social media.  OK, time to forgive yourself.  Use your next present moment to make up for it by connecting with your child.  He doesn't need a perfect parent, just one who can admit mistakes and come up with new collaborative solutions.  That's being a caring modern day parent, both for your child and for yourself.  You matter, too.  

For help with this and any other parenting issue:  www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching.  

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