Youtube, and Netflix, and Snapchat, Oh My!

#askWise – Hey Wise, what is important for me to know about navigating the internet and social media universe with my family?  I trust my kids so why do I have to monitor them?

Families come into our office every day and ask how to handle screen time with their kids.  And if 5 families are asking, 50 families are silently wondering…and worrying.

Technology is here to stay, folks.  And it’s a BIG mistake to think that your kid is only looking up historical facts about the Civil War on the internet.  The teens of 1995 were learning to use the internet as a part of their everyday lives, and today’s teens don’t know how to live without it.  They are laser-focused on downloading the latest-and-greatest app that will give them broader and deeper access to peers, information and innovation.  Whereas 60% of teens in 1995 talked to their friends on the phone daily, now the average teens sends more than 60 texts a day.

According to the researchers (probably teens) at www.teensafe.com, teens are looking at a screen roughly 7.5 hours every day!  And 71% of teens don’t have to leave their own bedrooms to reach the wide – and wild – world of the web.  And they are dominating social media – 81% of teens use social media with 91% of them posting photos of themselves on a daily basis.

So what is a family to do to embrace the world of technology, stay open to the opportunities that social media creates, and encourage the exploration of new information, all while protecting teens from disturbing online content and opening the doors (literally) to the real world of movement, nature and face to face communication?

  1. Lead by Example

The old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do” is BALONEY!  Our teens are watching our every move (and have been for years) so, if you want your offspring to turn down their media use…then you need to do it too.  We all have times when we want to sink into the sofa and binge watch Netflix.  Everyone needs down time, including your teens.  We have a few media rules around The Wise Family that you might consider.  1.  No cell phones or other media at the table during meals.  And if you bring something out (usually to check the veracity of what a sibling states as fact), then you are instantly afforded the opportunity to wash the dishes or pay for dinner, 2.  All cell phones in the kitchen over night.  This means your offspring may have to use a good old-fashioned (LOUD) alarm clock!  3. No video games or TV during the school week.  Start with those.

  1. Widen your conversational net

When kids bring up their scores or strategies in various video games, the latest YouTube video sensation, or the Snapchat story of friend, ask questions and really pay attention to the answers.  A 2016 statistic from the Pew Research Center stated that 87% of millenials reported having missed a conversation because they were distracted by their phone.  So put down yours, and show them you are listening.  We teach the friends at The Wise Family to listen with their whole bodies – ears, eyes, brain, body, and heart.  Then, try to listen in a bit deeper to how these experiences make them feel.  Not all video games and group chats are bad!  In fact, they can help develop a host of cognitive and social skills.   Widen your conversation by asking open ended questions about these activities like, “How did you get so good at playing this game?” or “What do you do when you notice that someone in your friend group has gotten left out of a group chat?”

  1. Make a plan together

Take some time together to hold a “Family Council” meeting to discuss electronics privileges and limits.  Families are so busy, and we sometimes stay in touch on the run, only stopping to communicate when there are problems.  Having a regular time to share joys, frustrations and daily happenings can allow conversations to go beyond superficial issues and scheduling activities.  Talk about how much time they think is too much screen time!  Working together to set limits allows everyone in the family to feel ownership around the decisions that affect everyone.

Being a WISE parent means guiding the way by serving as a role model, listening and leading conversations, and drawing everyone together to make a plan about how to find solutions.  Be Wise.

Find Amy at thewisefamily.com/

Amy Fortney Parks, PhD, LPC
Dr. Amy Fortney Parks describes herself as a life-long educator, a passionate psychologist, and often stressed-out, but mostly happy, mom of four! She is the Executive Director of Wise Mind Solutions, LLC, and the owner of The Wise Family - a comprehensive brand for kids, teens & families designed to inspire, educate and energize families! Along with a PhD in Psychology, Amy brings with her over 25 years of experience working with children, adolescents and families. More information and how to chat directly with her about your family can be found on her website, www.thewisefamily.com or connect socially @wisefamilies.