I’m sure you’ve been there – it’s time for your child to turn off the computer game or log off from social media but to put it mildly, they’re not quite as keen as you are to do so. The fighting quickly escalates with your child screaming at you for more time online. Suddenly you’re the worst parent in the world. Why can’t they have a few more minutes? You just don’t understand. You’re angry and very frustrated. You wish the technology could just disappear, because right now it seems to be doing more harm than good. Sound familiar?
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one going through this experience. The natural response of course is just to ban the use of technology for a limited time. Surely that’s the most effective way to get your child off that screen already? Let me explain why although this is a very tempting option, it may not be the best choice to make.
“Us and Them” Mentality
With so much technology very readily available for our kids that didn’t exist when we were their age, the generation gap is notable. Most of us think our kids spend too much time staring at screens. Sometimes it seems like our kids are speaking a different language to us. They’re probably more tech-savvy than we are having grown up with this stuff; swiping screens is something they’ve been doing for their entire life. They don’t distinguish between their online world and real life as we do.
When you get into a fight with your children about turning off their devices you immediately set up a barrier between the two of you. You want your child off their device and they want to keep using it – there’s no common ground.
Whilst it’s important to be a parent to our children as opposed to trying to be their best friend, it’s also nice if we can have a peaceful and harmonious home life. Fighting with them when their emotions are high and they’re determined to finish the game they’re playing, or respond to one more message, is a recipe for disaster.
From your child’s point of view, taking away their device is disastrous – and social suicide if they’re using social media. This is most likely to result in them stomping off to their room and slamming the door declaring how much they hate you…not an ideal situation!
Apart from causing a rift in your family, here are the three reasons why confiscating technology just doesn’t work.
1. They’ll Go There Anyway – Behind Your Back
If you’ve banned your child from using their devices or the internet for a specific period, and they really really want to be there, then there’s a good chance they’ll do whatever they can to get on there behind your back. This might involve sneaking out to grab the phone or ipad after bedtime and hiding it under their covers.
If the ban continues for the next day, they may simply borrow one of their friend’s devices. Rest assured that in most instances where there’s a strong enough will, there’s always a way. Children are highly resourceful when it comes to getting what they want!
2. They Have Nowhere To Go For Help
Presuming your child is successful in using their device or accessing their game or social media behind your back, then if something goes wrong they’re not going to approach you for help for fear of getting into even more trouble. That means they could be placing themselves in a precarious situation and can quickly feel trapped, for instance if they’re approached by a stranger or a predator. This happens all the time through games and social media sites.
3. Communication Breakdown
The number one key to helping your kids stay safe and happy online is by opening the lines of communication between you and them. They have to feel like they can approach you if they see something that upsets them, allowing you to work with them and be a part of the solution. You’ll find it’s very difficult to help your child through a problem you don’t know about, and kids are very good at hiding things from their parents.
If you confiscate their technology access or devices when something goes wrong, you can pretty much guarantee they won’t ever come to you again the next time they need help. And you can be sure there will be many times they will need your parental guidance and understanding. This puts your children in a very vulnerable position of trying to figure things out on their own that they’re not emotionally ready for – or perhaps seeking advice from friends or strangers that could make their situation worse.
The Better Alternative
OK, so if confiscating your child’s access to technology or to their devices doesn’t work, what are you supposed to do then? Great question!
Like most other parenting challenges, the best way to encourage your child to make the right choices as far as how much time they spend online is to agree on the rules up-front. Have very clear conversations as to what your expectations are as far as how much time they can spend online each day, backed up with your reasons for limiting their time online. You’ll also need to agree on the consequences if your child chooses to break the agreed rules. Better still, agree to these conditions in writing so there can be no disputes in future.
This then puts your child in the driver’s seat. Instead of you telling them to stop playing their game, they are aware of what the rules are and of what will happen if those rules aren’t followed. Your child is now in control of the situation and of what choice they make. If they make a poor decision and you follow through with the agreed consequence, this is called discipline – not punishment. And this is how you encourage your child to want to make the right choice peacefully, without world war three breaking out in your home.