One of the significant questions in today’s society from parents are, why does my child seem socially disconnected? Could it be children and teenagers spend more time texting, spending time on social media, and playing video games? If you picked one or all three, you are correct. Asking a child or teenager to walk over to a friends home to see if they want to play, or asking them to go outside and enjoy the fresh air generate a look from them as if they are being asked to complete the most dangerous task in the world.
As a parent, why can’t I get my child to do something so simple, I did it when I was their age? As a therapist and a child of the 1970’s, I did not know anything different. The nostalgic times of coming home from school, eating a snack, going out to play with my neighborhood friends, and as soon as the street light came on that was the signal that it was time to go home, eat dinner, have family time, finish homework, and go to bed. On the weekends, forget about it, it was playing for twelve hours outside in the snow, the rain, the wooded areas, and using our imaginations by making fortresses out of wood, lawn chairs, and blankets and having the time of our lives. And yes, we did it all without cell phones and computers.
In the last few decades electronics have become the babysitter and the “electronic pacifier.” Based on the changing economy, parents are working multiple jobs just to pay rent and put food on the table. Parents are stressed and pressured to return after a long day of work and begin dinner, homework, and nightly routines. Our kids get into bed, and out come the electronics, and the customary call from the parents, “ shut it off, and go to bed.” The next morning, kids are oversleeping because of the night electronics, parents are yelling and screaming in fear of being late for work or the child missing school. Once everyone is out of the house, anxiety levels increase due to traffic as mom or dad has to get the kids to school on time and have their own fears of being late for work.
The question we ask is, has the use of electronics by our children, caused social impairment. Since the first cell phone that gave us the ability to text, and the first modem that allowed us to type an electronic email and send it, to the present day where the thought of a face to face conversation generates a level of anxiety that forces our children and adults to seclusion to the safety of anonymity and the opportunity to communicate our likes and dislikes on electronic devices. While bullying in school is at an epidemic level, the days of the one school bully as multiplied to many bullies on school campuses, and morphed into bullying on social media in the forms of text messages, photos, and memes that are driving our children to self-harm and suicide.
While there are multiple benefits to using electronics, what message are our children receiving from adults. The next time you are in a restaurant, look around, how many couples and families are all texting , watching videos, or checking in with an updated status. Kids are watching their parents and other adult drivers driving and texting, the danger that comes with that is another topic for discussion. While we all recognize the challenge of different life schedules, and more ways to avoid not only social connection but physical behaviors. Now we talk to machines to get them to start our dryers, cook our food, turn on the lights, and read stories to our children. We use our phones to order our food on line, have our groceries delivered to our homes, buy our clotheson line, maybe all that is left is we go to the bathroom, take a shower, and brush our teeth without our electronic devices taking that task over.
What can we do to help our children increase their ability to function in this electronic world? Like any behavior modification, it takes commitment and planning. Here a few tips.
- Tip#1: Plan a few nights during the week the entire family eats a meal together, all phones get put into a shoebox or container in another room, and your have the opportunity to reconnect.
- Tip#2: If you are driving your kids to school, put the phones down, and talk about their upcoming day, and on the way home, discuss their day. Don’t forget to put your phone down while your are driving.
- Tip#3: While in a restaurant, establish the rule that phones stay off the table. While planning is important, parents can always make a list of topics to discuss before hand.
- Tip#4: Explain the benefits to your kids why it is important to have time to talk to one another as time moves quickly and before they know it there will be graduation, college, and other life events that the time together talking may become challenging.
- Tip#5: Remember your phone is not a living organ in your body, you don’t need it to breathe. Take some time to be mindful and look around at the beautiful gifts in the world like tree’s, clouds, and other things that are right in front of us.
For more information please visit: https://www.apathtochange.com
Article written by Michael Gilman, Licensed Mental Health Counselo