Overwhelmingly, one of the most frequent complaints I hear from parents is “all my kid wants to do is stick their face in a screen”. Other parents are already budgeting for the facial plastic surgery operation when their child finally dis-attaches their face to the nonstop and heated up screen that has melted their child’s face. I jest, but in all humor there can be hints of truth.
In today’s society, you cannot afford to be anything but a proactive parent who lays down a set of ground rules to prevent your child from falling into screen addiction. You also need to keep a level head and continue to ensure you raise your child to be well-rounded, and not an overly technological socially awkward person who will not succeed in the real world.
After all, even if your child loves computers and you can see them going into a technology field, when they are interviewed in competing against 50 other young adults at the same set of skills, the company is going to be asking, “Who is the most likable?” Your choices now in not allowing technology to be your child’s sole best friend will have far-reaching and colossal implications once they’re out in the job market. Even though robots are replacing much of human work, humans are still judged, beyond their technical skills, largely on their personality and ability to work with groups. Your personality is still a key predictor of how you will do.
Consider this: The leading predictor (credible business psychology studies repeatedly clarify) of why somebody leaves a job at a company is not how much money they are making, but rather their relationship with their manager. You want your kid to be the one who can “go along to get along”, and if your kid is the manager, you want your child to become the one who can manage a variety of personalities and work in the flow with others.
In short: your child’s technical skills will not get them a job, nor will they ensure (on their own) that they keep their job; their personality and social skills will.
If you let your child spend too much time using technology, and not enough time interacting with others getting out in the real world, the “opportunity cost” they pay (as they are not out doing prosocial things instead) can be that they will be too socially awkward and not have enough “social grease” to have the Right Stuff to be employed, have successful deeper relationships, and live a basically happy life. Across all societies, social science research clearly points out that what all parents want for their children is to have a “happy life!”
One item on your parenting job description is listed as follows: “Ability to hold two good parenting principles even in the face of constant complaining, significant affiants, and continual unfavorable comparison to other less responsible parents”
Let’s agree on the philosophy everyone should start with: Technology is a privilege, not a right. It must be earned. It cannot be expected nor demanded. What this means in a general sense is access to technology should never occur unless your child is meeting all of the criteria you have set up in your house to determine whether they are abiding by the house rules, meeting academic expectations, etc.
Technology Ground Rules*
*This is a compilation of ground rules different parents and I have set up, but you must decide which of these are applicable for your family. They are not being generically recommended by me.
General monitoring ground rules:
— Parent reserves the right to randomly review the text messages of their children, especially if that child exhibits behavior that violates the trust and/or house rules. In today’s society, responsible parents often randomly review the text messaging and/or social media communications of their children to ensure nothing inappropriate is occurring.
— If child has a social media account, such as on Facebook, the parent has the username and password and reserves the right to be reviewing any content posted.
— Child must have their location identifier always turned on their phones so the parent can know where that child is at all times. If child turns off that location identifier, loss of technology is part of the consequences.
— If child engages in inappropriate usage of technology, such as sending inappropriate text to friends or others, then they will lose that technology for an amount of time that will produce a “psychological sting.” In other words, a consequence that will be a painful enough that the frequency of that behavior is likely to be decreased over time.
During school week:
-Carefully consider whether your children wake up in the morning and immediately use technology. If they do, this could set a precedent where they are waking up earlier and earlier because they are craving technology. Also, since the visual fields presented by some video games are artificially rich, once they get to school the relatively less stimulating visual field of Real Life can seem relatively boring. Part of your agreement with your child should be if their ability to use technology in the morning is affecting their sleep, then that technology will go away for a to-be-defined period of time or may need to go away until the weekend.
– If you are going to allow technology during the week, not allowing access to technology until all homework is done, all reading assignments are done, and child has had appropriate outdoor exercise is a good idea. Even if the claim that playing video games helps them unwind, think carefully about whether they could as easily unwind doing an outdoor activity or playing with someone face-to-face.
-Any serious bad behavior or need to remind of chores negates usage of technology for that day, and possibly longer. Grades that suggest your child is not trying their hardest can result in loss of technology for a period of time that gives them that “behavioral sting” that will help them reengage school where they now give their best effort.
-Missing assignments, getting in trouble at school for inappropriate behavior, etc., should negate usage of any technology for a “stinging” period of time.
-If you as parents buy new technology for your children, it is a good idea to have them sign a behavioral contract, where you lay out all of the ground rules in bullet point form.
-If one child is using any screen device, and the sibling tries to forcefully take it, then that aggressor forfeits their technology privilege for that day. Siblings can play each other’s games, but not with other sibling’s account unless given verbal ok. If sibling lies about this, forfeit technology for 2 days. These are just examples you should consider for your family.
-Technology use should not allow a child to exhibit socially awkward or technologically obsessed behavior. Examples you should go over with your children include the following: when child is asked to do something, even if they are in the middle of the game, they need to, in a timely manner, respond to that requesting adult. Secondly, not stopping the use of technology to engage in appropriate social etiquette, such as with adult guests or friend leaving the home, also results in loss of technology. Child must write an apology note to earn technology back, explaining at least five reasons why that social faux pas negatively affects their reputation and how it can affect their ability to do things such as be a good team player or get a job if they are older.
Necessity of meaningful ongoing bonding
-Every week there needs to be a passionate, joyful time between children and parents. Children and parents can explicitly agree, and even memorialize this with a written agreement, committing to the fact that technology cannot get in the way of there being ongoing meaningful time between parents and the children, and that means EACH parent. There is a serious discussion about how important it is for there to be one-on-one uninterrupted time between parents and particular children. This necessitates that parents also put away all their technology and that the child and parent each agree how important it is for the two of them to have time with a get-away from everything else and they make the other person the most important thing in their life. PERIOD.
-Child agrees if they obsess on technology to point of constantly or chronically asking for more, that they will write out at least seven reasons why too much technology damages the brain, social reputation, and maturity.
-Technology during car rides is not to be expected (but possibly can be given for longer trips), as that is time when great music and conversation can strengthen relationships.
-If the child’s solely preferred activity is technology, then there is a series of in-depth discussions that need to go on that help that child rebalance and find a more well-rounded set of experiences they seek. This may take weeks or months, but the parent commits themselves to help that child realize that there are grave “opportunity costs” if that child overly engages technology whereby they lose out on the richness and maturational enrichment that social experience brings.