Digital Parenting: “Text Me When Dinner is Ready!”
I recently read somewhere that more people have access to a cell phone than those who have access to working toilets. That means of the 7 billion people on the planet, 6 billion of them have access to cell phones. Like it or not, mothers are raising children in a digital world. Everyone, including our children, are moving at the speed of light. My 3-year old niece has a social calendar! It seems as though we all have to stay in touch and connected with everything, at all times, everywhere.
Living in a plugged-in world that is presents obvious and hidden dangers to our families. People aren’t connecting in real-time like they used to and neither are parents and their children. For a child’s development, it is necessary for them to develop and sustain real bonds with trustworthy adults in order to interact securely in society as they mature. While it may seem easier for parents in some ways, having your child being raised by Sid The Science Kid or consulting with teenvogue.com about their daily life decisions isn’t really going to cut it.
Here are some tips on how to be the most important connection in your child’s life:
Virtual Vacation: Unplug with your children once a day or at least three times a week if your family schedule won’t allow for more. All cell phones, computers and TV’s should go off for at least 30 minutes a day, perhaps at dinner or breakfast time.
Helpful Apps: Find apps to help enhance family communication or make coordinating schedules easier, like walkie-talkie apps or shared calendars.
The Dead Zone: Create no-cell, tablet or computer zones in the home…like no digital hardware in the living room and kitchen.
Friendly Competition – Log into virtual games on your cell phones or tablets to play against each other throughout the day: chess, Scrabble, etc. There are no limits to what you can find in the app store.
Play Along : Take time to play the video and virtual games your children play. Knowing the games your children play not only helps you to learn their interests but it also helps you to show an interest their world.
Back to Basics : Play board games, jump rope, Twister, charades or a host of other “old school” games with your family. These kinds of games open up conversations.
Buddy Bonds: Make one-on-one time. Every child and mother needs time with family adults without siblings around.
History Class: Carve out time for sharing stories of the family’s history. Say, “my grandfather was the first….” The best way to navigate where you are going is to know where you come from.
Download: After checking with your children about their day, download a bit of information to them about your day. Kids want to know that we are okay or why we are not in the best mood. Telling your child in an age appropriate way about a high and a low in your day is a good way for them to know mothers are real – unlike the women in their video games. “Mommy saw the funniest thing today” or “my friend at work really hurt my feelings today” are great ways to lead by example. Children will be more likely to share their ups and downs if they understand in a practical way that the sharing is mutual.
We can’t fight the direction our world is going in. Like our mothers and their mothers before them our task is to stay on top of what’s hip and what’s happening in order to help our children navigate this brave new world safely. Our children need to know that we are the authority on what matters in their world. So, mom, if you don’t know, Google it! And, don’t’ be afraid to share the old stuff like double-dutch, rotary phones and Jiffy Pop Popcorn. Everything that is old eventually becomes new again.