As if parenting wasn’t challenging enough… Today’s parents have to contend with a whole new level of distracters when trying to get the attention of their kids. It can be especially tough to find “quality time” on the drive to school or hockey practice when your child or teen has their Ipod on with music blaring while simultaneously texting their friends about the latest school gossip. Although I am certainly a big fan of technology, (with a particular nod to Apple products) there do need to be some boundaries around how much and how long is enough. In my practice, I routinely talk to teens who are being awoken or kept awake for good parts of the night by the buzzing of the cellphone kept beside them in their bed to let them know that they’ve just received a new text message. Not only is this problematic for getting a good night sleep, but it is very frequently the source of more mental angst as the young folks spend the rest of the night thinking about the fall-out from many of these texts.
While no parent wants to be the “lame” parent on the block who forbids their child to engage in the ‘electronic age’, it is our responsibility for our children to place limits on behaviours that may not contribute to their optimal development. We had to do that when our toddlers were learning not to touch the hot stove or to walk towards a set of stairs, and it is still our responsibility to place appropriate limits on “technological” dangers.
Although I’m certainly not suggesting that our children should never have access to Ipads, cellphones and such, I definitely think that firm parameters need to be placed around their use. For instance, families may want to establish a “Turn-Off” time, in which all electronics are discontinued for the night and must be placed in a designated (not easily accessible) location for the rest of the night. By the way, I would suggest that the parents should also consider conforming to this family rule as a way of ‘unplugging’ from the outside world.
It’s all too tempting to get sucked into the outside world for hours at a time. In the meantime, we can be missing what’s right in front of us…