By Nadia Thornton, M.ED, Nicky Texeira, M.ED (Ontario Secondary School Teachers) and Deborah Brooks, B.A. (Registered Psychotherapist)
Today’s parents face a struggle not seen in previous generations: monitoring their children’s digital lives. Whether it’s gaming, social media or messaging, modern parenting issues now include distractions and threats from the digital realm. There is also the issue of having devices in the classroom, and the speed at which content is being viewed on these devices. It is affecting attention spans, and there is a huge problem with on-line bullying, with devastating consequences as private information gets shared and goes viral.
Additionally, their relationships have changed, as many teens socialize digitally and seem to be content with having “virtual friends” rather than actual “real-life” friends who would show up in times of need. Values can be influenced through social media, especially if connections with family are not strong. Young individuals can seek love and approval online, which can lead to over-attachment to mobile devices and social media. Here are some tips to help you navigate, as a parent:
Tip #1: Educate yourself on how popular social media platforms work so you know what your kids are up to.
Tip #2: Be incredibly vigilant as to what images and opinions get posted by your teen. Images live forever on the internet and can be difficult or impossible to remove once posted.
Tip #3: Emphasize proper social skills and manners, while interacting with others. It is imperative to know what is going on in your teen’s life, as they have more opportunities to meet people of influence.
Tip #4: Provide presence, time and attention to your teenager. Have a specific time to talk to them without distractions. Give your child 100% undivided attention and try not to pass judgement on them. Attempt to make the conversation flow, without giving your opinion.
Tip #5: Encourage hobbies that don’t require technology, such as athletics, music, art or drama. Integrate your hobbies and interests into the family such as weekend getaways or nature hikes. Keep your children engaged in different activities to build their confidence and abilities in the real world.
Tip #6: Establish clear boundaries and rules for your teens’ digital use including having all of their usernames and passwords for social media accounts. Take ALL electronic devices away from your teen at agreed-upon times. Remember the “information superhighway” never turns off and could possibly keep them up for the entire night.
In closing, we offer two quotes from authorities in the field:
“…There is a fine line between controlling the child/teens cell phone use and allowing them to self-regulate the use of electronic devices. To start, parents should designate a time for cell phone use in the bedroom. As they get older, the parent should give their son or daughter the opportunity to self-regulate so they have the experience of accepting the consequences of not having clear boundaries with electronic devices,” says Child Psychiatrist, Dr. Gillian Elliott-Pearis, M.D.
“…Parenting is a lot of work, but if there are clear guidelines, boundaries and expectations, life for parents will become easier…Good luck!,” says Dr. Elliott-Pearis.
Deborah Brooks is a Psychotherapist and counsellor for Serenity Renewal for Families, an Alta Vista Charity, which provides educational programs and counselling for people affected by addiction and addictive behaviours, including children and teens. To learn more or to donate to families needing assitance, call (613) 523-5143 or visit serenityrenewal.ca