Wow, if we break the word de-vice down to its Latin base “de-vitium,” it literally translates to “concerning vice” (defect, crime, etc.). And we wonder why our children are so glued to their “personal device.” Aren’t we all in some way, shape or form glued to some (de)vice or another?
As a psychotherapist, I often see parents at odds with their children over screen time. This leads to further questions about what extra-curricular activities promote healthy psychological and social development. In fact, being a parent myself, I see the effects of these concerns firsthand in trying to raise my own children away from the screen.
So what is the answer? How do we raise healthy children in today’s technologically addicted world.
There is no single answer that fits the generality of this question. However, there are specific answers that fit the special nuances common to an individual parent/child relationship.
Screen time can be detrimental to your child’s overall psychological health. When the CEO of Apple talks about using his phone too much and then turns to his company to create technology to monitor how much time is spent on the screen, we know a problem is present. That would be the equivalent of a CEO of a major beer company stating that not only is alcohol addicting, but that he or she spends to much time drinking his company’s product. Would you ever hear this? Probably not. However, screen time is just the newest argument in a long standing stream of problematic behaviors that touch upon virtual versus outside play, and each areas effect on healthy body, mind, and spiritual growth.
While there are no easy answers to this question, I would refer you to take account of your child’s strengths. What are his or her interests? Is he or she a book-worm or chomping at the bit to get out of the gate and run? Are they an introverted savant, or crave being an extraverted center of attention. It is from these dynamics of personality that you must engage your child, not from a one size fits all set of criteria that more often than not may be wrong when it comes to your child.
When parents and children stand at odds, most times it is simply a translation problem. Remember Will Smith’s Parent’s Just Don’t Understand? What don’t we understand? Well, in this day and age, we tend to judge areas of development socially, not individually. This is a byproduct of extreme amounts of time spent on social media, a social vice and outlet that is becoming even more prominent amongst the children of this generation. While this method of communication gives us great power to keep in touch, it is important to remember that what we are exposed to on social media is a primarily one sided, mostly egotistical portrayal of persona versus the stark reality of one’s personal life. While not necessarily intentional, people tend to put their best (face) forward versus showing the true nature of their hardships. This affects the perceptions of others, which makes individuals see only the heroic and non-complex aspects of a family dynamics. This ultimately causes a “Ward and June Cleaver” effect to take place. How then can “Al and Peg Bundy” of Married with Children ever complete with the Cleavers of Leave it to Beaver. They can’t… which in turn, affects the way we as parent’s perceive ourselves and our parenting capacity.
While this is problematic, there is one key component missing. Al and Peg loved their children, were there for them, stayed together through thick and thin, and somehow, at the end of the series, were successful in raising their children. Even though the series presented a very haphazard presentation of child rearing behaviors, the final outcome of having a positive parenting experience was present because Al and Peg as parents simply cared and were there for there children, engaged both in a manner that was accepting of their particular nuances, honored their strengths, and encouraged growth from their weaknesses.
So how do we raise children in this technologically addicted world?
- Listen – What do your children love. Amplify it. It is the source of their strengths.
- Observe – Watch them. They experiment with their own passions, and this becomes the source of their strengths and future love for learning.
- Visualize – See yourself engaging at their level. Foster your inner capacity to experiment again as a child. Help them identify areas of concern, and encourage them to engage areas of strength in a fun manner. If games are their thing, take them to a gaming center so they can interact while playing. Maybe even introduce them to Laser Tag, and get some physical activity in while playing a much needed game.
- Expose, Experiment, and Engage – Perhaps the biggest of lessons. Expose your children to new experiences. Foster their inner capacity to experiment with their environment, and engage life in a manner of encourages self-exploration.
LOVE them. It is a truly profound experience that will foster healthy growth for you and your child for years to come.