I don’t think there are many parents around who haven’t sighed, pulled hair out and wondered how to reconnect with their teens. The kids are often so tech obbsessed, they rarely spend time away from one connection or another. Teens on Facebook, texting, playing computer games… is this healthy? What can we as parents do to help out children develop into well rounded individuals?
There is much discussion over the amount of time teens and young people should be allowed to spend online, I am not a psychologist, or an expert, just a parent who has a gut feeling when the kids have taken it too far. This happens in my classroom too, where I do have to remind my students about appropriate use of technology, and it must be for specific learning tasks if used in the classroom – this doesn’t include checking Facebook status updates!
Many students are using iPads, tablets, netbooks, desktop or laptop computers for school, how do you know when to say enough? Are they using the devices for appropriate tasks? There are places you can go to to check what tasks your children are supposed to be working on: Daymap, Moodle or in some cases teachers set up Facebook groups. You can check on what tasks they should be working on, you will need to log in under their username and password to check this.
So onto the strategies:
1. You are the adult/parent, YOU set the boundaries your children need to abide by…some of the boundaries I have found helpful are below
2. No technology in the bedrooms – this is just asking for trouble. Computers should be in an open family space. There may need to be quiet times for homework etc, but you should be able to wander past and see what is being done online.
3. Allow free time for Facebook/games etc, but limit that time, and stick to it – if necessary remove the device, or turn off the modem. I use 2 hours, but it depends on the individual.
4. Talk to your children – develop an understanding of what it is that your child feels is important when they are online. I know my son is into online gaming, and we have had many interesting conversations about how he works and develops relationships with other people online. It was interesting to hear that as he works as a part of a team, he doesn’t want to let them down – what a brilliant life skill to develop, and something that they often lose when they come to secondary school.
5. Listen to your children – different to the talking, listening to how they are emotionally. Are they more quiet than normal? Are they aggressive? If you notice changes in how they are acting/behaving, go back to strategy 4 and TALK to them, let them know they have options that don’t involve being online.
6. Disconnect – find a time, or a day when the family connects by disconnecting, it might just be for a walk after dinner, or or a whole day, but something where you have quality engaged family time.
7. Remind the kids they don’t have to be “available” or “online” 24/7 (this is a great strategy for adults too, as work/life balance seems to blur more and more) Turn off phones at night, turn off devices, remind them they don’t need to check in on Facebook every minute, it will still be there later.
8. Schoolwork first – Of course homework should be completed before accessing games/Facebook etc
Of course these strategies won’t work for everyone, but can be a starting point if you are having trouble with a teen who is not sleeping, or doing homework, or is getting grumpy, or spending too many hours isolated and online. The key point has to be starting the conversations, developing a set of guidelines that works for your family.
Do you have strategies for dealing with your connected teens? Share them in the comments section.
Are you Tech Obsessed? Interesting article from The Age a few years old, but still relevant.
eParenting some interesting information and advice.