By Susan McCrossin
When looking at how much time children spend in front of screens, whether it’s a television, computer or telephone you probably need to look at yourself first. What kind of example are you giving your child? Are you the kind of parent whose phone is constantly ringing and you immediately respond to it? What kind of message are you sending your child or spouse or friends? Are the people you are with boring and anything the phone provides is more interesting? For those you are with it is rude and infuriating.
A recent article in the New York Times covers this point in detail. In various studies, one child thought she was boring, another called her father’s phone a “stupid phone” and at the very minimum no one is communicating with those in their presence. One researcher observed 55 family groups in a fast food restaurant and in 40 of them the adults immediately started using their mobile phones, using them during the meal more than they paid attention to their children. This kind of behavior encourages children to act out in an effort to receive some kind of attention from their parents.
As Susan Stiffelman, a family therapist, put it in The Huffington Post, today¹s parents are unprepared to deal with the intense pull and highly addictive nature of what the online world has to offer. As parents, we have an opportunity to guide our kids so that they can learn habits that help them make use of the digital world, without being swallowed whole by it.
One suggestion is that parents when they return home from work should turn off all devices and spend the first hour with their family. Also at meal time and driving the children to and from school is a good time for communicating with them. Children can act out when told that they can’t do what they want to do, or when suffering long explanations about what they can and can’t do. But those who always get what they want never learn disappointment or delayed gratification which is necessary to be a resilient adult. Those that receive everything they want when they want it grow up feeling entitled and unable to overcome difficulties in life. By spoiling children you handicap them in the trials and tribulations of life that are there to enable them to learn.
Both parents need to have the same rules, limitations and consistency for children to grow up and become confident, successful adults. Every successful adult will tell you that they learned more from their failures than their successes. A guide from Harvard says “Since the devices can be turned on anytime, you as a parent need to monitor their use, keep track of time, and then make sure the agreed upon rules are followed.”