The Boston Globe published a short piece in The Download section, Do you know your kids’s social media handles?” The writer interviewed me and a photographer came to the house on a Sunday morning. That my teenage girls agreed to participate was less about excitement and more of a resigned, “Oh, here goes mom again.”
The very day it was published I went to a parent night at the local high school for a screening of a documentary called Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age. The audience was mostly middle school parents, which makes sense. They are in a constant state of panic. According to a recent survey by researchers at Arizona State University, Suniya Luther and Lucia Cicolla, moms of middle school kids are more stressed out than parents with kids of other ages. The paper was published in January in Developmental Psychology and is entitled: What it feels like to be a mother: Variations by children’s developmental stages.
Over 2200 mothers filled out the survey and most were highly educated (college or more) with a children in one of six age groups: infant, preschool, elementary, middle, or high school, or adult.
Guess who were the most satisfied? Moms of babies and moms of young adults!
Let’s face it. Parenting is really hard. After the initial bliss wears off, raising kids over the next two decades takes lot of work. By the time the kids are ready to leave home you’ve pretty much done your job with the resources and know-how you had. You can’t exactly “rest” either. Yet, you let go — hoping on a wing and a prayer that your kids make wise choices and find happiness.
That’s why I don’t freak out anymore that my girls have on average 1000 “friends” on social media. Or what the app of the day might be. I trust my girls. We have some simple rules of thumb. Yes, in middle school we tried the home technology contract. That worked for about 3 days. We could have constantly revised it but it came down to some simple rules, values, and common sense parenting (aka: clear expectations and clear consequences). Really, it’s all about using technology mindfully. Our basic rules:
- Don’t post what you would never say to a person face-to-face
- Be kind
- Only “friend” people you actually know
- Keep all accounts on private settings
- Parents can spot check at anytime
- Your digital footprints trail you forever
- Don’t show your boobs
My girls were too busy to be on smart devices 6 to 9 hours of day (the average consumption of today’s teens according to Common Sense Media). The a hardest thing still is asking them to get off of their devices an hour before bed — for their brain health and a good night’s sleep. This is the only time of day they can relax and socialize after a 12-hour day of school and sports. They also know my mini brain lectures: “Neurons that fire together wire together” or “What you attend to, grows” or “Brains can’t multitask.” Similarly, I quip that: “Your friends can bring you up or bring you down, so choose wisely.” Offline and online. So I get a little unnerved with all the hype about kids getting addicted to their smartphones or the parental angst provoked by the well-intentioned educational programs and movies like Screenagers.
It is about balance. Technology is here to stay. It amplifies the bad and the good. The key is knowing the difference.
P.S. Of course, I a wrote up a little guide to help parents. You can check out the e-book here: Your Guide to a Smartphone-Friendly Family
(c) 2016, Boston Globe, Pat Greenhouse; iStock Photo