The 7 Digital Sins of Parenting
So, what do we do about all this technology, especially these devices like iPhones and iPads that are with us all the time, always seem to be on, and forever draw our attention?
We believe mobile devices feel extra personal, but we should bring them into the light. They cannot stay hidden. A cell phone is not a diary. It is not a personal journal with a lock and key that no one should access, but sometimes they feel that way. Social media is shared with the whole world, and yet sometimes kids want to keep what they do online hidden. That is the biggest mistake they make. Nothing online is really hidden, it is all viewed, tracked, clicked and stored. The illusion of privacy comes from the feeling that our device is only ours and that we control all the things associated with it. That is not true, and we need to help our children realize that, and more importantly, we can invade that space a little as well. It isn’t to say that they can have no trust from you as they use the device, but we mustn’t let our kids grow up thinking that they have private room to view the world. In reality, it is more like sitting in a glass house into which everyone can see.
Don’t get caught thinking that because things are going well now, that all will stay well. Social media, and device usage is a constant ebb and flow. Your child might be incredible responsible, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t regularly check up on them. You need to ask what they are watching, reading and posting online. Growing up, my mother used to tell me that I should never think that I was the type of person who could never get caught up in bad actions or behavior. This attitude is helpful to teach your kids. They can always be tempted by images and ideas. They, and us a parents, need to remember that pitfalls can always lay around the next corner.
Don’t get caught believing that because all the other families you know are allowing certain behavior that you must allow it as well. For instance, most social media sites require users to be at least 13 before participating. You can choose to enforce that or not. Many parents choose to allow their children access to that world before age 13. It is okay to set your own time line and limits for your children. Your kids might not like it, but you are the parent, and your judgement should not be swayed by every other parent on the block. Of course, you should have a conversation with your kids about what you believe and why so that they at least have context for your decision, and don’t wait avoid technology forever, but feel free to set the right limits.
This one comes right after conformity because, sometimes parents just don’t care to keep up with the latest social trends. That’s fine, but if your kids are curious, you better be curious as well. Don’t be the last one to the party on the next social media app or device because it will only make it harder for you to help your kids navigate the nuances of whatever app or device they are on next. If staying up to date is hard for you, then ask your kids what is next, or what they hear of friends using and go figure out those ones. There is no need to know everything, just the ones that are pertinent to your kids.
Things were so much better back in the day, right? Wrong, if you are a child or especially a teenager. One day, this will be their good old days too. It has always been that way. We all look back on our collective past with rose colored glasses. More importantly though is that when you tell your kids that you can’t stand what they are interested in today, you create a larger gap for you to cross when you want to engage them. You don’t have to be a social media wizard, and there is no need for you to be the most adept at the latest online game. Instead, you need to understand that these are the things that your kids are excited about, and when you shut down the conversation, they stop talking to you about it. That is the thing you want to avoid wholeheartedly. Keep the conversation open!
While mobile devices feel intensely personal, they shouldn’t be used exclusively alone. Instead, it should be normal at your house for people to see and have access to all devices. Long stretches of time alone with a device isn’t healthy for any of us. Make it normal to show your phone and to check in on what is happening on your child’s device as well.
Too much is never good. One great rule of thumb we have come across is that you should have an hour every day, and day every week, and a week every year completely away from any type of technology. That is wise. Being too plugged in and too dependent are going to cause us problems. When your child’s world gets consumed by being online and connected it is important to remind them that there are many other valuable pursuits for their time.
Lastly, hypocrisy. Yes, so very often we make rules that we don’t want to apply to us. We choose to not allow any phones at the dinner table except ours. We choose to make our kids show us their devices and pictures but keep ours hidden. In this world, it is a two way street. You should play by your own rules. Model the right behavior and be willing to show restraint yourself. If you really inventory your time, you might be surprised by how much you are glued to your own device.
This article is taken from our new book The Parent’s Guide to iPhone and iPad. Available on April 4th on Amazon and wherever books are sold.