I’ve written two Handbooks for parents, grandparents and other caretakers to support their efforts in dealing with kids. I hope these small books help build confidence and inspire people as they face the challenges and awesome responsibility of caring for children.
In today’s world the responsibility of caring for children has a new and more complicated distraction:
With the ever-present devices that hold us hostage, how do we raise kids in the digital world?
Sure, we all like our phones and tablets and readers and computers and Fit Bits and, and, and. Sure, they can serve a real purpose in our daily lives. At the same time they can be a real distraction. The challenge is finding the right balance.
Is your child addicted to his/her device? I know, that’s a scary word. But what happens when you try to take the device away? Tantrums? Attempts to hide the device? Insults hurled your way? Refusing to interact with others? Those are signs of addiction.
I am a big believer in ‘Training to avoid Treatment.’ This means that if you train your kids in the use of electronics early on, you – and they – will be in a better position to deal with the pervasive presence of digital devices and not need ‘withdrawal treatment’ when they get older.
Here are a few ideas of how you can help guide your child along the digital path – while guiding yourself at the same time.
First of all, let me emphasize that I understand that parenting is hard. There are so many unpredictable situations that you find both yourself and your kids in where the frustrations mount and sometimes you start to doubt yourself. Don’t allow that to happen.
STOP. WALK. BREATHE
When you find yourself in the heat of the moment and are ready to shout, STOP. Walk away for a few minutes, and slowly take five deep breaths. Regain your focus and your confidence to remember that your job is to protect and guide your kids to grow into caring, responsible adults. Kids need to learn how to do this, and you are the teacher.
Teaching your kids that spending too much time on devices is not good for them will help them make better choices as they grow up. In the meantime, right now they need exercise and time outdoors playing.
Do children have too much screen time and does it matter how much time they spend on iPads, smartphones and laptops?
Help them understand that it is important to have social time with real people.
BE A ROLE MODEL
In my 10 Great Tips for Parenting Handbook, one of my important guidelines is BE A ROLE MODEL. We all know the positives of electronic devices. They help with research, contacts, taking pictures, recording moments, offering entertainment, and so much more. But you must remember that you are being watched. It’s what kids do.
Consider the amount of time you spend on your devices. Take a day and write down how much of your time is spent texting, googling, searching, and scrolling. This includes talking on the phone. Notice how often your focus is taken from NOW by that ringing, dinging, flashing little electronic rectangle that is on your lap or on the table during a meal or a conversation. Find out what percentage of your day actually is spent with technology. Then cut it in half.
KEEP SCREEN TIME KID SAFE
Be sure you know what your kids are watching and doing while they are using electronics. As I said, taking control when kids are young is a lot easier and it creates a habit. There are ‘kids safe’ apps out there so children don’t accidentally come across something inappropriate.
Monitor what your kids are looking at and how long they are having ‘screen time.’ Check on them periodically to see what and how they are doing. Set the limits for both time and subject and stick to them.
But wait a minute!
Ok, so now you say, “Come on, get with the program. It’s 2016 and the reality is that it’s all about electronics.” I’ll simply leave you with this article: (Hint: it’s about new research that shows how excessive screen time may inhibit a child’s ability to recognize emotions.)
Don’t let that happen to your kids! Be the teacher and the role model for how to balance time spent using technology. Now, go outside and play with them.