Our capacity for inventing connective technology has far outpaced our abilities to manage its effects on our lives. And I’m talking about us adults. I’ve got a fully developed frontal lobe but I still, stupidly, answered a text while driving yesterday. And last week I embarrassingly hit “reply all” on an email chain, not realizing till hours later I had damaged a relationship in the process.
How can we think our kids can handle it any better? Do we really think that just because they can navigate the technology itself better than adults, they can fully manage its usage, and its effects on their psyches, their relationships, their self-worth?
Maybe 45 percent of us do. According to the Pew Research Center, only 55 percent of parents say they actively limit the amount of time, or times of day, their teenager can be online. This is, frankly, terrifying.
I am certainly not advocating a micromanagement philosophy here, but when it comes to technology, many parents give too much space and not enough place. And one of the reasons for this is because we too often assume that because our kids know their way around an iPhone better than we do, they know how to manage its overall usage in their life.
Here’s an answer: Get educated about technology. Ask your most tech-savvy friend to help you learn about setting restrictions on a phone, filtering out inappropriate material at the router level (I like Disney’s Circle product), and spotting ghost apps (whereby teens hide their chat activity), for instance. Learn how Instagram and Snapchat and Tumblr work, and set up your own accounts so you can follow your kids’. And their friends’.
Here’s an even better answer: Get educated about what’s going on in your kids’ online social lives. Don’t snoop all the time (although having their phone codes is a must), and don’t pester them with questions. But consistently ask them about their life online. Just be curious, without an automatic judgmental tone. Ask them about a time when they felt bullied or mistreated on social media. Ask them to show you some of their favorite video clips or memes or which celebrities they love to follow on Twitter or Instagram. Just keep asking.
Excerpted from SCREAMFREE PARENTING, 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION: HOW TO RAISE AMAZING ADULTS BY LEARNING TO PAUSE MORE AND REACT LESS Copyright © 2017 by Hal Runkel, LMFT. Published by Harmony Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.