I have two children, ages nine and eleven. We have always limited their technology, but only before the pandemic, we bought them tablets to give them access to education, entertainment and their friends. Then I became concerned about its increasing use Y put more limits on the screen hour.
Full disclosure: I’m a phone addict. So I introduced a rule that we all put our devices in a box when we are not using them (I break this rule the majority). During the last confinement, we got my older child a phone. She had already asked Tik Tok – All his friends had him, but I refused because he has all kinds of age-inappropriate things. However, that was how her friends communicated, so I allowed it as long as it was a private account on my device, so I could monitor it and its messages. She reluctantly agreed to this. I know I need to take a step back, but how can I do it without neglecting my duties as a parent?
Now I have allowed you to have your own access to Tik Tok, because her felt left out of conversations at school, but I told him that I I would check what he posts from time to time. Have I made the wrong decision? What is the proper balance? Am I being too controlling? I would love to read some material on this.
Many parents worry about technology, and there is a tendency to be really strict (which is unrealistic) and then feel insecure about the decision and therefore give in, then fall into free fall. But this problem doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Some parents use the minimum age for users as an outlet, as in “It’s not my rule, it’s not allowed.” TikTok’s minimum age is 13 years old.
Your long letter bounced all over the place from rules to leniency, over-control to change of mind, and I think you have an excellent awareness of this. This is to be applauded, but needs clarity and consistency. Rachel Melville-Thomas, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist (childpsychotherapy.org.uk) said, “It’s really about anxiety; the fact that these are phones and tablets is, I think, a funnel for your worries. Your terror is possibly due to your daughter spreading her wings. “
When her children were younger, it seems her rules were followed and that made her feel like she was in control. With older kids, it’s more about negotiation than being prescriptive. As children grow, they need to learn to navigate on their own.
Melville-Thomas wondered where her partner was in all of this: “Who is helping you balance things out?” This is a burden that is best shared.
Technology is part of our lives, so better than a total ban or intense scrutiny is teaching your children that they can come to you if they make a mistake. If you are too censorious, that will not happen. Once you’ve said yes to social media, it’s very hard to go back, so come up with some realistic rules together. Sit down as a family and talk about your concerns and needs. You could agree that there are no phones upstairs, say, not even at lunchtime. Not only is this kind of collaborative effort more likely to come to pass, it also shows your kids that you trust them and care what they think. But although you will talk about this as a family, remember that you are adults and have the last word.
Also, you must lead from the front. If you can’t follow the rules, they will see you as inconsistent and hypocritical, not a label that no parent wants. “All parents struggle with consistency,” says Melville-Thomas. “So if you make a mistake, you can say, ‘I thought it was okay to allow this to you, but I think we should review it.’
You asked for reading material; Melville-Thomas recommended Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation, which focuses on what we lose if we’re all staring at a screen.
In his longest letter, he says he doesn’t use social media, but it’s a good idea for parents to understand. Understanding tends to dilute fear, and at least you will be able to speak from experience. Also: stop reading their messages. You don’t need to know everything that happens. You are not teaching your children about confidence or autonomy by doing this.
Children thrive by making mistakes and overcoming them. Think of this as something physical, let’s say walking, you wouldn’t try to hold them all the time. They need to learn to balance. And here they do it too.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism