April 20, 2024
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Parenting and Technology

In our last article, we spoke about some parenting challenges as relating to technology. The following three examples were cited:

The father who needed to be on his i-Phone during time at home with his children

The parents who were concerned with their child’s constant ‘obsession’ with their Facebook profile

The parents who were concerned with the volume of texts their daughter was sending

Perhaps you are reading this article and are thinking the following thought, “What is the problem with any of this? It is normal for parents to be on their i-Phones in the presence of their children. It is also normal for teenagers to be on Facebook and even normal for parents and children to communicate via texting.”

The answer to the above is that it is true that these things have become normal and routine in our society. It was just last week that I have witnessed a family of four standing together in line at a particular ice cream store, each one on his/her gadget for a long period of time. Furthermore, when walking in public places, it is not uncommon for me to see kids walking together but instead of engaging in conversation with each other, they are each individually on different gadgets.

While it is important to never draw general conclusions about any particular episode, these changes in society should push us to reflect on how these technological changes have impacted communication between parents and children.  Let’s apply this to the above examples:

When a parent is on an i-Phone in front of his children, it does send a message to the child that what is on my device or the person who is calling me is more important than the joined activity that we are engaged in at the present time.  The fact that some children don’t speak up or can’t speak up does not mean that they are not drawing conclusions from their parents’ behavior. It is for this reason that I often tell parents that when they come home from work, they should take their phones out of their pockets and put it away for the duration of time that their children are awake. If there is something pressing, I encourage parents to tell their children that they need to take a small break. However, joined activities should be ‘phone free.’

When a teenager is constantly updating his/her facebook profile, the parents need to communicate to their child their feelings about the situation. Communication and connection between parent and child cannot simply be introduced during the teenage years. It needs to be something that has been cultivated and developed over time. Therefore, dilemmas during the teenage years are seen as only a continuation of the relationship that I have had with my parents for the previous 13 years.

Texting parents about routines, errands and shopping lists may be normal. However texting should not replace face to face communication between parents and children. The importance of attachment, connection and role modeling has been shown to provide children with safety, love and security. Research on families has already begun to show that families where children are provided with ‘over-exposure’ to technology are at some risk to develop an incohesive family structure.

It is incumbent upon all parents to think about how their use of technology impacts their relationship with their children. Waiting in line for ice cream is perhaps the best time to talk to your child about school. Studying for a test with your child should be free of any phone or device interruption. Finally, it is important to remember that our kids are watching us! The presence and focused attention of parents can go a long way to building a connection to your child.

Mark Staum, LCSW, is the school therapist for the PTACH program @ MTA. In his practice, Mark specializes in child and family mental health. In the past, Mark has developed social skills groups for both elementary and middle school aged children. Mark has developed many different workshops related to the social and emotional development of children and adolescents. To contact Mark, please email him at, [email protected]

By Mark Staum, LCSW

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