Technology Terrors

Have you noticed how so few people pick up a phone to organise stuff these days? Who even needs a landline? Texting is so convenient.

It’s all too easy to criticise teens for their passion for pixels and cyber space but in reality, most of the people supplying them with technology are using it in similar ways. Yes parents, we are pimps to their addiction! Have you noticed at sports games, school events and community concerts the number of adults with their phones out? Surely they can’t be in the moment if they’re online.

And you can’t expect teens to do as I say but not as I do.

The mix of social media access with its cloak of anonymity and voyeuristic, narcissistic tendencies make it one of the biggest minefields most parents have to traverse with their kids. Throw in hormones, a developing pre-frontal cortex and impulsive tendencies and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

On the other hand, digital technology provides great learning tools and opportunities. We can Skype people around the world and connect with other cultures broadening our life experience at the click of button. We can make videos, tell stories, share projects and collaborate with others. But do we?

As parents we need to proactively model digital technology usage and set parameters. Here’s some suggestions:

  • Not in your bedroom, not after bedtime. Sleep is important. Remember my teens as big toddlers theory?!
  • Set hours per day. Screens include phones, tv, Ipads/tablets and computers. If kids use digital technology at school, consider how many extra hours is acceptable. Anything over two hours a day is deemed potentially harmful according to parenting experts.
  • Ask what they are doing. No, you’re not invading their privacy. You paid for it, you set the rules.
  • Have consequences for breaking rules. Obvious one is to take devices away. Scare the older kids – suggest you get a local police officer in to explain the repercussions of immature actions. That works.
  • Make stuff together. Show them Google Earth, Skype relations, create and edit videos. Try free apps like FX Guru (see below).
  • Device free time. No phones at the table, family events and special occasions. How on earth can we enjoy the now if we’re not fully present?
  • Know school procedures around cyber bullying. It’s worse than didymo. Cruel, unnecessary and impacts on learning.
  • Language use. It’s never okay to call someone a gay faggot. Teenage boys seem to have an unnatural attraction to use what they see as shocking language when texting. Tell them why it’s not ok.
  • Focus on the positives. Tell your kids if you think a site or platform is great. Encourage them to keep using the power of technology for good not evil.

Above all, be realistic. Don’t expect the kids to do what you can’t. Teenagers have an acute sense of injustice (pain in the butt generally but keeps us honest).

Nothing like a technology free weekend for everyone to get back to basics. There are still plenty of places where cellphone coverage is patchy in NZ. Why not visit one for your next family break? I recommend the Catlins. 😉

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