My boys want to play video games all the time, and my 13-year-old daughter is crazy for texting and Facebook. They don't bother me when they're online, but I know I should set limits. But when I tell them to turn those things off, they make an awful fuss. Help!
Across the globe, at this very moment, children on iPads, cell phones, video games and computers are begging their parents for "just five more minutes." It's no surprise. Screens offer incomparable fun and social connectivity.
To say that the digital world exerts a strong pull on our children is an understatement; most adults have a hard time hitting the off switch. (I'm just going to check my Facebook page one more time... click one more link... post one more comment...)
We have arrived in the digital world without a map or compass. Without doubt, the digital world offers untold riches: We can stay up to date with loved ones, learn things we might otherwise never be exposed to, entertain ourselves 24/7-- and the list goes on. A handheld device can become a portal into a world rich with discovery, whether in the hands of a ten year old in Chicago or a young woman in an African village.
AND, as parents, we need some idea of the lay of the land if we are to raise children who develop the self-regulation and self-awareness that will allow them to use technology without being consumed by it.
This week, I will be hosting a free, four day, online tele-series on Parenting in the Digital Age, and I want to offer a special invitation to my HuffPost Parents readers to join in this stellar program at no charge. You'll hear Dr. Dan Siegel talk about how we can help teens create more balance in their screen use. Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is, will talk about how connection with our children enhances their willingness to join us offline. Alanis Morissette will share insights into how we can handle our children's frustration when it's time to hit the OFF switch. Altogether, nineteen highly respected experts will share guidance and practical tips for parenting in the digital age. Please click to join!
Here are a few things to keep in mind about parenting in the digital age:
• Get clear. Most parents know that consistency is important, but if we are to establish clear guidelines about when our kids can and can't plug in to their devices, we first have to locate clarity within ourselves. When we're hazy or uncertain, our kids will invariably hard to convince us to bend the rules. If you are indecisive, ask yourself why? Are you confused about how much is too much time on devices? Afraid of your child's anger? Simply too tired to argue? By discovering what fuels your lack of resolve, you'll be better able to establish screen time rituals and routines that will reduce constant negotiations for more time or access.
• Know your child. Some youngsters can enjoy the iPad or online games without having too much trouble when it's time to hit the OFF button. Others cannot; they come absolutely unglued when it's time to unplug, lashing out with aggression, or sinking into a state of depression or ennui. Set guidelines based on your particular child, rather than adapting "rules" established by an expert or following suit with friends or family's suggestions.
• Educate yourself. Years ago there was a show called Dragnet. The lead detective was Joe Friday, and whenever he was interrogating a witness he would use the now famous line, "Just the facts, ma'am." One of the reasons I've put together the Parenting in the Digital Age series is that parents need comprehensive information about how to integrate screens into their children's lives from a wide array of authors, teachers, and experts in the field. The more you know, the better equipped you'll be to bring the digital world into your family's life in a balanced, sustainable way.
• Build connection. I have to wrap up this article with what has become my theme song: Parenting from connection goes a long way toward motivating kids to cooperate with us. Human beings are instinctively inclined to please those with whom they feel close, and to resist the influence of those with whom they are not attached. Spend time with your child goofing off, talking, and listening. Talk with them about screen time and social media so they feel you're all on the same side. Collaborate in setting family guidelines to ensure everyone stays connected to the 3D world--and one another. The more your children feel close to you, the more inclined they'll be to hit the OFF switch when it comes time.
To take part in the Parenting in the Digital Age teleseries, please click here.
Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and the brand new Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (An Eckhart Tolle Edition). She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.