Social media is a normal part of our culture and its presence only stands to expand and become more prevalent. Fighting this trend, as parents, serves nothing and so we must embrace it and parent our children to have a healthy, not addictive, relationship with technology and social media. Kids do what their parents do, much more than they do what their parents say, therefore, the greatest teachers of how to balance real-life and online-life comes from, us...their parents.
1. No technology during meals: Have you ever noticed when you go out to eat and look over at family and every single person at the table is engrossed in their phone? There is little to no conversation between people/families even in simple social events such as going out to dinner. A great rule to set in a family is no technology during meals.
Parents tend to find more excuses to break this rule than kids because "work" calls. However, work can wait one hour. If work can't wait, your kids will believe their friends can't wait either. Meals are a great time for families to come together and have face-to-face verbal and emotional interactions. Phones should be left in the car when out to eat and left in rooms when at home. Meal time is the one hour per day that families get to reconnect and enjoy each other.
2. No hand-held phone use while driving: Whether your kids are of driving age or not, you are their safety role model. If you are texting, emailing, and doing other non-handheld activities on your phone, you essentially give your kids permission to do the same. Clearly, one of the number one causes of accidents is the use of cell phones while driving. It is gravely important to not just have rules set up verbally with kids, but for you to follow the rules you set.
3. It's not that important: As parents we can neglect our children by being on our phones under the understanding that because we are adults and business is important we have a more justifiable reason to be on our phones then our kids do.
If your child ever asks you get off your phone, do whatever you can to get off and connect with them. They may need advice, help with homework or just need to connect with you. If they are seeking your undivided attention remember they deserve your undivided attention. If you do this for them, they feel a sense of importance. This way when you want them to get off their phone to connect with you or others, they will be more willing to drop their phones and make you and others important.
4. No technology right before bed: Research on sleep has shown that the type of light coming through a cell phone, computer or i-pad makes sleep more difficult. Make it a household rule that cell phones and computers be turned off as soon as all necessary responsibilities with them have been taken care of.
At least 30 minutes to one of hour before bed their eyes should not be looking into that type of light. Continue to buy kids paper books to read before sleeping. Parents should do the same thing. Without adequate sleep, a person experiences lower frustration tolerance and poor mood. A house that sleeps well, gets along well, and are more successful in all areas of life.
5. Responsibility first social media second: Social media can be addiction for both parents and children, so the rule for all people in a family around chores, school, work or other responsibilities is social media has its time and place, and that time and place is after all responsibilities have been taken care of.
Phones and computers may be needed for work or school, but Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook are not typically necessary to effectively perform our responsibilities. The social parts of the cyber-world need to have their rightful place on a social level, but to be successful fun must come second to hard work and commitment.
6. Permanence of the online world: Teenagers are especially risky in what they share in text or online with selfies, nearly nude or fully nude photos and in all the ways they speak online or in text. In the moment our kids are not thinking anyone would ever share or blackmail them with pictures or conversations they have had online or in text but it happens more frequently then they expect.
Further, more and more children are catching their own parents having affairs online through emails, pictures, online calendars, or finding interactive porn sites on their parent's computers. Both parents and children have to be aware that what they put out there can have permanent and totally destructive results to themselves and others. Once something online is live, it is permanent.
7. Password protection: When using social media both parents and kids need to make sure their passwords are sacred and not given out from parent to child or to have their kids give their passwords to their friends. People now pose as other people by hijacking the accounts of friends or parents and acting as if they are someone else. This has been used for cyber bullying, manipulation and to cause another to lose their reputation.
Parents can have access to passwords for their kids, as a rule, to whatever age each parent uniquely decides is reasonable, but children should not have the passwords to their parents accounts or their friends accounts and nor should their friends have access to their accounts. It has been used for more harm than good to get your account hijacked because you can never prove it wasn't you who said what you appeared to say and do.
As parents we have to make our kids more important than our phone's and emails. As we model this, they will not forget the value of being in direct connection and attention with others. We must also model and balance, safety, discretion and responsibility with technology, so our kids learn to do the same.
Sherapy Advice: We cannot forget that real love and connection is a person-to-person experience. We need eye-contact and touch to experience connection, not just a screen.