I believe that parents should be adequately equipped to help their kids maintain healthy usage of technology.
There are many reasons why this topic appears consistently in what I am reading or talking about with my social circle. As we develop more technologies and dive further into the unknown, we need to have more tough conversations with our kids (and each other!) that we didn’t have twenty—even ten—years ago. I call it parenting sensibly.
I remember the first computer I used which had internet access. In the late 1990s, no one, not even my parents, knew the dangers that lurked behind the door of the world wide web. By the time my senior year of high school was drawing to a close, boys in my computer class were searching for adult content on the Web, and I was peering over their shoulders in disbelief.
My son is thirteen-years-old. At five-feet-seven-inches, he is taller than me now. While he is easily one of the funniest kids I know, he has the classic teenage attitude where he pushes back at everything we throw at him. He firmly believes he should have strict privacy when it comes to his cell phone and web use. My husband and I vehemently disagree with him on this matter. We believe that our children’s activities should be frequently monitored, and without notice to them, which grates on our son’s nerves.
Last May, we took our family vacation to Colorado Springs. My husband and I made a conscious decision to keep the younger childrens’ phones and other web-enabled devices with us at night, only allowing them to use their devices for bits of time throughout those few days.
What we noticed most was increased participation in family activities, like when we watched the movie “Frozen” with other KOA campers and when we visited the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. They were fully present, engaged with us and each other. I remember getting ready for bed the first night we stayed at the KOA. We had been listening to the thunder, lightning and heavy rain that had been going on for hours. Three out of our four kids were lying in their sleeping bags and, without the distraction of their electronic devices, they were forced to wonder if they were going to live through the night. My husband and I were only hoping to sleep some.
It was during that trip when we learned that life lived is best offline. Oh, sure, our kids bickered, and my husband and I rolled our eyes at the bickering; but, we had many laughs. I think the best laugh we had was when we were all sitting in the living room of our cabin and a woman and her dog tried to come in through the front door. Despite our then-16-year-old daughter pushing back on the door in an attempt to keep the woman out, she continued to press forward until she snapped out of her trance and apologized quickly before turning away! We count that experience as a victory thanks, in part, to our decision to limit the use of electronics during that trip.
Since then, we keep the phones with us at night, continuing to make sure that their behavior online is reflective of our family values. I dare you to ask my kids what my number one priority is. They know me best, so they will answer, “Safety first!” every single time.