“These are amazing days when you can videoconference Grandma in a different country in real time. But if you don’t minimize and monitor screens in your child’s life, when your son finally meets Grandma face to face, he may not know how to simply sit and visit,” argues Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane, authors of Growing Up Social. If you’re interested in raising relational kids in a screen-driven world, then I highly recommend reading this book.
Chapman and Pellicane explain screens are not the problem; rather, it’s the “free time equals screen time” mentality that’s negatively impacting children. Therefore, after examining the issue of “too much, too soon,” the authors tackle five different skills, such as appreciation and attention, related to technology before providing parents the tools to initiate change. This title is loaded with persuasive statistical information as well as practical advice for taking back your home.
One of the biggest issues, according to Chapman and Pellicane, is that a world dominated by screens is false. It’s designed to please your child instantly, and since the real world doesn’t revolve around your child, a dependence on screens sets your child up for a frustrating life. Essentially, “The art of patience is lost,” explain Chapman and Pellicane. As a result, children often give up when things get difficult.
A consequence of the screens’ instant gratification is a society scrambling to please children. For example, Chapman and Pellicane point out, “Children today are rewarded even if they don’t perform well.” You know what they’re referring to – the endless certificates, ribbons, and trophies for participation. What’s the motivation for a kid to do their best if everyone is going to be recognized? According to Growing Up Social, “He grows up with a false expectation that whatever effort he puts forth – excellent or poor – will be rewarded.”
Another big problem with screens is that with children in elementary school now being exposed to social media it “teaches kids that the road to popularity is paved by likes and the number of comments and online friends one has.” Chapman and Pellicane maintain, “It’s hard enough for adults to deal with disparaging comments…imagine how hard it is for children who don’t yet possess the emotional maturity to cope with the digital world.” Every kid wants to be liked and by limiting her social media, Chapman and Pellicane believe, “You will help your child find the answer in real people who can shower her with affection instead of an online community that can be fickle and cruel.”
What can you do so screens add value to your family instead of erode it?
- Own up to your responsibility as a parent.
Chapman and Pellicane believe to accuse your child of poor decision making is in effective. It’s the parents’ job to set appropriate limitations. And, they argue, “Giving a child the responsibility of browsing the Internet safely is an unreasonable expectation.” The message you’ll take away from this book: If we are going to give our children access to electronics, we need to be prepared to monitor their use.
- Teach the skill of appreciation.
Chapman and Pellicane warn, when your child claims, “But everyone else has one!” it is never true and “We do a great disservice when we give kids everything they want.” They suggest thinking of screen time the way you might the other freedoms you extend families to decide what’s best for them. Doing so, they claim, will enable you to accept the choices you’ve made for your family without any guilt. (Easier said than done, I know, but important nonetheless.)
“Realizing that others have gone out of their way to help doesn’t come naturally to a child, but they can learn,” Chapman and Pellicane insist. They suggest parents focus on how our kids get to wear clothes, go to school, and participate in activities that most children in the world would treasure. By making a conscious effort to emphasize this perspective, it will help out children feel grateful in our world of plenty.
- Teach the skill of managing emotions.
“One of the problems with technology for kids is that the screen allows an anonymity that can cushion the user from suffering any consequences. Children may not say hateful, angry words to other children to their faces, but they can log on to their computers using a pseudonym and leave angry posts or send nasty emails,” explain Chapman and Pellicane. Therefore, they suggest you keep in mind that if your child is old enough to send a text or email, then they are old enough to practice common courtesies, such as greetings and compliments. Apologies, however, are better suited for face-to-face. Growing Up Social illustrates how many teens are communicating personal messages via text or instant messaging. Hiding from these difficult situations shortchanges them, for they can’t learn how to handle awkward interactions with others.
- Teach the skill of attention.
“In the year 2000, before mobile phones and computer apps were popular, the average person’s attention span was twelve seconds. Since then, our attention span has dropped by 40 percent,” according to Chapman and Pellicane. Deep reading, in particular, has become more difficult, as our brains have grown accustom to evaluating and navigating the distractions of the Internet. As a result, our brain now needs to make a concerted effort to fully understanding a text online. In addition to being mindful of how the Internet impacts our brain, Chapman and Pellicane also stress the importance of devaluing multitasking, as it reduces the quality of your work, changes the way you learn, creates skimmers, and wastes time.
- Create digital-free zones.
Chapman and Pellicane recommend no televisions in bedrooms as well as the collection of all devices by a designated time each night. They suggest no screens at the table or in the car and encourage scheduled non-screen activities until the behavior becomes habit.
- Model good screen behaviors.
According to Chapman and Pellicane, “What we model digitally is more important than what we say about screen time. If we as parents are totally consumed all our waking hours with electronic media of any kind, we are communicating, “This is what life is about. This is the norm. Too often parents give the right message but in the wrong manner.”
- Think outside the screen.
Try not to lose sight of the fact that the electronic device that connects you to others can isolate you as well. Since most of the time, Chapman and Pellicane claim, parents report that screen time gives them a chance to complete chores, screen time is not the “family time” it’s often advertised as. More than likely, Chapman and Pellicane point out, families are spread throughout the house lost in their own electronic worlds.
Therefore, consider your own variation on this clever game, Chapman and Pellicane report some disenchanted young adults are now playing: “When dining in a restaurant, they stack their phones in the middle of the table. Whoever reaches for his phone first during the meal has to pay the tab for the table.” Doing so, Chapman and Pellicane believe, might just help you teach your kids to live with screen time, not for it.