Fun fact: there were a couple of years when our television mysteriously ‘broke’ during summer and my parents were ‘too busy’ working to get it fixed. In reality, my parents had simply cut power to the television in an effort to ensure that we would not spend our summer in front of it.
As a parent, I didn’t have the opportunity to ‘pull the plug’ on television in the same way. While we have only ever had one television set in our home, we have accumulated computers, a tablet and cell phones. The number of screen options has grown exponentially over the years making it very difficult to surreptitiously eliminate the possibility of screen time.
That being said, following the pediatric guidelines we did try to minimise screen time while our child was young. We have also taken a technology-free vacation where only one cell phone was allowed for emergency purposes. This led to a particularly wacky weekend where board games had us laughing uncontrollably.
The reality of Screen time
With a cell phone and computer readily available, our teenager spends a lot of time in front of a screen. During the school year, (as I wrote about here) we recognise that technology is a vital tool for research and development of projects and notes. I know from my own experience that a fair bit of my work is spent on the computer – researching, writing, connecting with people and so on. We would not want to get in the way of our teenager developing the necessary skills to use technology.
The challenge of summer
Summer, however, provides a time away from the rigours associated with school and thus the use of technology changes. For our teen, some time is spent reading and being creative on Wattpad or writing music with MuseScore activities which we think should be encouraged. We also know there are social media accounts to review including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. We seek balance in the process but recognise that there is still work to do, including regarding the importance of validation via impersonal social media accounts.
Balance is encouraged when it is also modeled by other members of the family. Parents who are overly focused on technology and zone out while watching television or working on the computer, validate these actions for their children. Banning technology during meals and at other meaningful opportunities can create space from which interpersonal interactions can take place reinforcing these skills as well. This doesn’t require a special pepper mill to do so, but does need a commitment from family members to use this time together for conversation.
What do you do?
So then, how does it work at your house? Do you place limits on technology and screen time for your children? How do you balance positive use with potentially problematic usage? What advice would you give to others in regards to the use of technology in youth?
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