THE PARENT COACH by JAN ROBERTS – EARTH OASIS CLIENT
This column first appeared in The La Canada and Pasadena Outlook Newspapers on May 14, 2015
Dear Parent Coach,
I was awakened at 2 a.m. recently, and discovered my 14 year old son on the computer playing games. We were both surprised to see each other at that hour! I was very upset. He said he lost track of time. I need help with a consequence.
Many parents, like yourself, are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy it takes to manage the fast growing use of technology by their children. Gone are the days when excessive TV viewing was the biggest concern on a parent’s mind.
Today’s tweens and teens (and even younger children) are technology whizzes. Not only are they quick to adapt to ever changing uses of each new gadget that comes on the market, but they are equally good at getting around the various parental blocks that are available.
A recent study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation showed that children ages 8 to 18 are spending an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day using some form of media for entertainment. This includes listening to music, playing games and watching TV, as well as texting, all on cell phones.
Excessive use of ubiquitous technology can have a negative impact on the grades and health of students. Many young people involved with social networking on Facebook and texting find it addictive, and they have difficulty knowing when to call it quits for the day. They’re obsessed with keeping in touch with friends constantly.
Family life can also suffer in the wake of over-the-top technology use by everyone in a family. There is less time for face to face interactions between family members, as well as decreased time available for sharing household responsibilities and other activities that are supportive and bonding.
Parents report that their teens are texting friends under the dinner table during a family meal. Others are caught off guard when their tween texts them from an upstairs bedroom to see if dinner is on the table yet.
Obviously, there are many positive and convenient uses for various forms of modern technology, as well as the possibility of misuse and obsessive use by inexperienced and naive kids. It is a parent’s responsibility to establish guidelines and controls that keep their children safe, healthy, and balanced.
Children do not obtain computers and cell phones on their own, without their parents’ consent and help in purchasing them. As parents make the decision to provide these for their children, a good deal of thought should be given by parents as to how, when, and where they should be used appropriately. Guidelines need to be clearly stated and enforced.
When teens begin to drive, parents typically spell out guidelines for the use of a car- where they can drive it, when they need to be home, and their responsibilities for the privilege of driving. The same should be true for use of a computer or cell phone, with specific uses spelled out and consequences in place for rule infractions.
Your son’s use of the computer at 2 a.m. was obviously against your parental guidelines, and you want there to be a consequence. The most logical one is to restrict the use of the computer for a week or two. The computer should be off limits to him except for completion of homework, and turned off when he finishes it.
Before resuming his use of the computer, your son needs to state your guidelines regarding appropriate use, and clearly understand what the consequences would be, should he decide to play games in the middle of the night again.
Draw up a contract that states your guidelines for computer and cell phone use by your son. Include consequences for infractions. Go over the details with your son before you both sign it.