It’s halfway through the summer, and you’re finding yourself in power struggles over screen time with your kids. “Why can’t they simply obey me and get off those stupid screens without whining, complaining, and negotiating? It drives me crazy!” A reasonable question, but there are a couple of key complicating factors:
You’re up against a giant. Your “foe” is a whole industry with incredibly brilliant researchers, designers, programmers, and marketers with billions of dollars competing in a contest to “capture the eyeballs” of youth. In a famous statement at the height of MTV’s popularity, Bob Pittman said, “We don’t shoot for the 14-year-olds, we own them.”
Your anxiety and anger are contagious. Because of how powerless parents feel against their children’s screen obsessions, they often engage full of anxiety about it (“Will my kid ever get a life, or will he just live in my basement playing video games forever?”) and anger (“I’m soooo sick of this fight!”). When kids sense these emotions and judgments, the conflict escalates.
Knowing this, how can you overcome those factors to effectively guide your child?
Are you feeling a little fear and trepidation about your kids’ free time this summer and the issues it brings?Summertime means long stretches of downtime. It also means that computer, television, and smartphone screens are an appealing way to fill that time for most children. Maybe you are a little worried about the seemingly inevitable clashes over technology and screen use. It can be hard to know how to pull little (and big) eyes away from the draw of the flickering screen and how to create some memories that will last and be more meaningful than anything an online experience can offer. Managing screen time is a challenge for many families.
Brenda is a mom of three who follows our teaching closely. She shared this great story about how she dealt with technology obsession with the kids in her home.
Two summers ago we had such conflicts over screen time in our home it drove me crazy. My kids were determined to get their hands on some manner of glowing device – no matter what. I was equally determined they not rot their young brains with it, and the battle was on. So last summer I tried something bold. I told the kids there were no specific technology time limits for the summer. (Could that really work?!) You may even have a knot in your stomach reading about such a reckless plan. But it did indeed work incredibly well, and it’s our plan again this summer!
What were the secrets that made for such an amazing turn-around in this family’s screen time power-struggles using such a counter-intuitive approach? They are listed here in order of increasing importance:
Last week I wrote about how my junior high daughter creatively and proactively asked for an iPod by preparing a well-thought-out list of answers to concerns she thought I might have. Here’s the rest of the story!
My daughter’s proactive list was a breath of fresh air and showed me a growing capacity in her to think more broadly about the impact of purchasing the iPod. Her pleasant, non-demanding tone was another sign of her maturity and thoughtful processing of the situation.
Some parents may believe that asking for the iPod in such an impressive manner should gain her access to it immediately. She deserves it, right? Others may view it as a form of my daughter manipulating me to get what she really wanted and saying yes will only mean more of this new “tactic”.
A thoughtful parent wrote us with the following question:
How do I encourage my child to be more creative with his time? For example, not spending so much time on the computer or sitting in front of the television?
This is an important question to think through well since so many kids are being drawn into the virtual world these days. It’s not always a “bad” world, but definitely a world with quick access to trouble of all kinds.
Parents ask us questions nearly every day. We get a lot of questions about the “right” way to discipline and why what worked for some growing up doesn’t seem to work for their own kids. We wanted to address the following question about the effectiveness of yelling at kids thoughtfully:
Q: “Why did my husband and I turn out to be respectful, well-adjusted, polite adults even though we were raised with spanking and yelling?”
Great question, and one we hear often.
The simple answer: Parents are not naturally the powerful influence in their kids lives they were just a generation ago. So these days, when parents yell, their kids can quickly escape to a whole new world of other influences.
A pediatrician friend of ours once had parents bring in their child and request a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) so they could get a prescription. But our wise friend took a look beneath the surface to what was really going on. Hear the rest of the story in this short video clip.
Apply It Now:
Whether it’s 5 minutes or 5 hours, make a plan right now to spend some focused time with each child.
If you’re not sure how to connect with your kids, considering making your first parent-child “date” a discussion of ways you could connect!
In a New York Times article, a journalist recalls how he once commented to Steve Jobs that his kids must love the iPod. Surprisingly Jobs replied bluntly, “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” Jobs knew firsthand the potential dangers of technology.
But how did he avoid having a mutiny on his hands? His kids’ friends probably expected that anyone in the Jobs family would have the latest, greatest stuff, and that time at their house would be an electronic frolic from start to finish.
Walter Isaacson, the author of Steve Jobs, shares Jobs’ secret of firmly prioritizing thoughtful, engaging, real-life interaction with his kids:
Sometimes technology feels out of control. I am chief offender in our home. Two hours can pass and, if I’m completely honest, I don’t really remember much of what I did, saw, or believed was so important.
I recently came to realize that I was spending hours with various screens (computer, e-reader, phone, etc), as were my kids, simply because I was… BORED! Not that there weren’t other things to do, but somehow my life and the life of my kids was being sucked out of us with nothing to show for it.