OpEd – Back-to-school tech tips for parents

Image result for OpEd - Back-to-school tech tips for parentsIt’s official. Summer is over in the Lowcountry. We are back to school, back to routines, back to getting up early and back to reigning in the screen time for our teenagers.

If you have a middle or high school aged kid with a phone, you understand this – even if you don’t have kids, you get this. We live in a world that is connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And without realizing it, we are bestowing a generation with the inability to turn their brains off – when they need it the most.

Can we really blame the kids if we aren’t doing anything to monitor their screen time?

If we are allowing them 24 hour access to the world, should we expect a different outcome? I totally get it. I’ve got two teens of my own that have mastered the art of negotiation. It’s a heck of a lot easier to give in to the incessant request for 10 more minutes than it is to fight with them. But y’all, we have to step up and help these kids develop self-regulation. It won’t happen overnight. But with consistent practice (read: years), we can tame this monster. (you didn’t learn to look both ways crossing the street at two – it takes time and practice)

  • Docking station:
  • The easiest way to control screen time is to have a docking station in a common area away from bedrooms. Before kids go to sleep, phones or tablets are placed in this area for charging. No excuses. No exceptions. (alarm clocks are inexpensive) – you’re the parent.
  • Gives kids an out:
  • By having this docking station, you eliminate their need to feel like they must respond to every snap or text or comment. They can blame you when their friends complain that they didn’t get back in touch with them immediately. They can blame you when they weren’t brought into seventh grade drama over a misinterpreted Instagram comment.
  • Gives them the OK to not respond immediately:
  • Turning OFF notifications is the easiest way to avoid the trap of “I have to respond now” (vibration alerts, too). If you ODR (open don’t respond) a Snapchat, you’re immediately flagged by the sender of said snap. Encouraging them to not respond immediately only works if you remove the device on a regular basis; 24/7 access and thinking they will self-regulate will not work. It’s not instinctive for kids. (we have to teach them this stuff just like we teach them to brush their teeth every night.
  • They are watching you:
  • Oh yeah, this one is a biggie, especially for me since I work on my phone in social media for a job. Ouch. Case in point: 15 month old picks up the remote control and points it at the television… Did the child instinctively know that? Um, no. They’ve spent hours watching us stare at the TV with that stick in our hands. The good, the bad, and the ugly – somebody’s watching you.
  • Talk to them:
  • Tweens and teens can be moody and scary and unfriendly. But try this? Ask them about something in their world. Everyday. (yes, everyday) – maybe it’s the Fortnite mobile app or the new layout on Snapchat or the new spring line of Vans. Get in their world and watch them light up. This conversation will make it easier to talk about the difficult stuff later on – don’t bury that head in the sand, they need you now more than ever. (yikes – middle school.) If you’re reading this and have little ones, the earlier you start, the better. For everyone, it becomes a part of their daily routine. (hint: if your teen is hesitant to open up to you, try talking with them next time there is a friend over. It does make them more comfortable)

This is new territory. There is not a comprehensive technology book or YouTube video explaining all of it. Since technology changes so rapidly, there never will be. However, these tips will never expire. Hang in there.

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