A recent study by the Dublin Technology Institute found that tech savvy abilities of teens do not prepare them for the harmful content and experiences in their on-line world, (which many teens reported they regret having seen and experienced certain images and ideas that bully, harm or encourage drug abuse). This report also cautions parents to avoid lecturing children about use of digital devices because they learn the cyber habits from their parents.
No doubt cyber connectivity is one of the most seductive and addictive forces in modern life and it can suck the life out of your family relationships if we allow it to have the lion’s share of personal attention at home. How much real face-to-face time do you and your spouse and children experience in a day or a week?
Three signs that your on-line life has displaced your role in your family life
- You are never separated from your smart phone
- You cannot ignore the sound of a notification on your device
- You are always signed on to social media
For the modern parent, cogitate (to think, ponder, contemplate) is an action verb to cultivate the mental discipline that liberates us from undue influence of the things that captivate and engage us.
Attention management is power
Recognize that where you give your attention is power, so how you spend your time and attention matters for your family. Cogitate (think, ponder, meditate) about the following:
a) Who is in charge of your life? You or the device? Recognizing that you are in command of how to respond to the things that disturb or beckon is how we model resilience to our children.
b) Is your profile who you are? Consider that your on-line profile is a superficial reflection of you – but it cannot replace you in the flesh. In the relationships at home your personal presence is essential to lead and teach your children life skills.
c) How do you communicate your faith, priorities and values to your children? How much do you assume your children know about your commitment to love God and others as yourself? How much are you modeling this truth?
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him
Three ways to break free from the undue influence of devices in the home
Attention Management. Recognizing that where you give your attention is power, make a commitment to yourself and your child that when you are in the presence of your child, you will put down the device and make eye contact. Your undivided attention sends a major signal to your child that they matter – and that you “get them”.
Device Management. Establish a time at the end of the day to retire the devices. As with all good things, they can be over-used and compromise other things. Help your child understand that you want them to experience how to be in control of the device, not the other way around. The idea that where they pay attention is their own power can help strengthen family bonds about just being present in the company of one another without an agenda or a manipulation. For more about setting age-appropriate boundaries for use of smart devices, go to: Cyber Rites of Passage.
Open Conversations. Get your child talking about things that are interesting to him/her. It can be about an app, an event or an activity. The main thing is that you get your child to share without offering your opinion or trying to influence their interests. The more your child experiences that it is safe to share what is on their heart and mind, the greater the chances they will come to you when something unpleasant happens on-line.
For more about creating house rules that encourage open communication and individual resilience, go to: A Parents’ Guide to Cyber Citizenship
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.
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Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and spiritual resilience. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.