How "Screenwise" Are You, Parents?
Last weekend I started reading a book that I have recommended to all of our MS parents entitled Screenwise—Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World. I wanted to share it with all of our WCCS parents here on the blog as well, because I think it is translatable, no matter what age your children might be. The book isn’t overtly Christian, but is relevant and presents parents with a positive, mentoring approach to managing your teenager’s devices and social media. The book comes from the reality that teenagers have so many distractions pulling at them, they are not relationally, emotionally, or intellectually mature enough to navigate all of the social media distractions without our help as parents. I thought I would provide a few “nuggets” from the book to encourage you to read further on your own.
Take a more intentional approach to mentoring your kids on technology
Focus on modeling thoughtful use of technology
Instead of trying to keep technology out of your student’s hand completely in an effort to protect, try instead engaging with them in the technology they are using. Find out what apps and games are new and current that your children might be requesting, and investigate them together. Have fun with your children using the technology they are interested in! Keeping a positive, interested attitude will help keep healthy lines of communication open with your child. If you are worried about a particular app or game, enlist a savvy tech parent that might be in the know about current apps and technology that can answer any questions or concerns you may have. Ultimately, your goal is to mentor your child on appropriate and safe online interactions in a growing digital age and to stay connected yourself to the online world in which they live.
Create times and spaces to be unplugged
Encourage each member of your family to live a balanced life and to create boundaries with technology use. As parents, don’t leave yourself out. You want to model that you are in control of your media devices - they don’t have control over you. Leave the phone at home and DO something together. Go to the park, play a game, create a craft space in your house, and unplug during mealtime and before bed. Find out what boundaries work for your family and be consistent. If you demonstrate with your actions that family time is important, your kids will internalize this and come to value it as well.
Teach your kids ways to repair mistakes and problem areas
Technology can have a big effect on our interpersonal relationships – the way we relate to peers and family members and even the way we solve conflicts. This is another great place for you to model correct behavior. If you find yourself becoming unbalanced in your media use, or perhaps you engaged in a debate online that you later realized was not God-honoring – admit to it and let your student see how you repaired the situation. As you can imagine, with social media and group texting there is a lot of potential for peer conflict in the digital world. Brainstorming with your student through these interactions will go a long way in forming mature resolution skills and keeping healthy relationships with their peers.
I have been encouraged personally by the challenge in Screenwise to bring balance and healthy boundaries into my own life regarding technology and social media use. As much as our teenagers may seem competent and self-assured regarding their knowledge and use of technology, they desperately need your wisdom and life experience to model and train them in how to navigate these technology waters. Likewise, Mom and Dad, you have much to offer them in this area. We often believe our teenagers are more technologically savvy than we, but it is the wisdom you have as parents that is needed to bring healthy margin to their overall life with their technology use.