This post was inspired by Common Sense Media’s latest report, which includes the finding that young people’s use of digital devices has tripled since 2011. When I read this, it reinforced my belief that the role of a parent is becoming even more important as we navigate new media’s effects on our lives.
I am a mother of two girls who are in their middle and high school years. They lead full lives with plenty of time spent on school, sports, and personal interests. My hope (which is probably the hope of many parents) is to guide them to make good, healthy decisions as they reach independence and approach adulthood.
My question is, how long will my guidance be effective in a culture with such a strong gravitational pull toward digital living?
Am I against screen time? By all means, no. Technology is essential for modern living. If used wisely, it can help us learn new things, save time, and connect with others. My issue is its tendency to become a default that displaces natural living. As long as we are living genuinely and thoughtfully, I have no problem with tech.
But sometimes I feel that I physically need to stand in the way of screen time to maintain balance. I need to be persistent and interesting enough to get in my own family’s way, so we end up wanting to spend more time with actual people than we do on a device.
To make this happen, I try to serve as a counterbalance to media’s magnetic pull and use three elements to lure the family in my direction. I make sure I have enough time to spend with them. I make it a priority to support the development of non-digital personal interests and hobbies. Finally, I emphasize the importance of thoughtfulness towards others.
Having time with my kids helps me tune into their everyday needs. I realize that time is a luxury that not all families can afford. I’m grateful for having circumstances that permit me to enjoy time spent with my daughters. Time provides me with many opportunities to see and hear what is going on in their lives. Time enables me to think and interject when intervention is necessary, and to have sufficient knowledge and context to know when a situation is running off course.
Developing personal interests is a way to keep our family life well rounded. Having a hobby not only provides a creative outlet during downtime, but also a sense of confidence when a project is completed. What feels better? Finishing a book, or checking Instagram? That can be a common choice in a modern teenager’s life. While there may often be a little of both, I’d much rather that the books continue to win.
Too much time spent on personal profiles and online interaction feels like a slippery slope that can lead to narcissism and obsession. Having recently heard the tragic news that a girl in my daughter’s high school class took her own life, I feel confident that steadfast vigilance is necessary to keep track of our kids’ health and well being.
My goal now is that my daughters spend time each day being thoughtful. It could be a simple as helping around the house to reaching out to a friend. Whatever it is, the action is meant to build interconnections that lead to mutual support. How have you been thoughtful today? It’s a question that they are learning to expect.
Together, having time, supporting personal interests, and making an effort to be thoughtful is working to shape a parenting style that is intended to balance the magnetic pull of the modern age. Will I succeed? Only time will tell. What I do know is that prioritizing family-time seems to be steering us in a healthy direction.