I’m not a parenting expert. I’m just a mom to two boys who has worked in social media for many years and knows the ins and outs of technology. One who saw a problem and wanted to help fix it.
That problem is technology taking over our kids’ lives. And parents are so caught off guard and overwhelmed that they don’t know how to manage it.
Childhood and adolescence are so different than they were in our day. As my teen so accurately put it the other day, “You just don’t understand that [playing video games] is what we do now. Not spending a million hours playing kick the can until dark like you did.”
He’s right. I wish—with full blown nostalgia—that my kids had my childhood. Most of the time, we were left to our own devices (pun intended). My fondest memories are, in fact, playing kick the can in the dark for hours, spending days sledding down Ehrman’s hill, hanging out at the roller rink, and sneaking into the county fair. But they don’t have the same experience. Like it or not, their lives are very different. And it’s not just because of smartphones. Many kids don’t go to a neighborhood school they can walk to. Many parents have to work, so there are camps and aftercare and lots of scheduled time instead of free-range play. And, yes, most socializing is done on SnapChat or Fortnite, instead of at the roller rink.
One study recently said that our kids are leaving the house much less than previous generations. And that although they are physically safer from kidnapping, drunk driving accidents and physical bullying, etc., they are unfortunately much less happy and more prone to depression. Not to mention that unregulated device use is causing them to get less sleep, which leads to moodiness, lack of concentration, and poor judgement. They also aren’t developing proper social skills like looking someone in the eye when speaking to them. All of this makes it more difficult to launch into adulthood and its responsibilities.
On the other side of the coin are those who say that all this screen time is not bad for our kids, and in fact, might be good for them. It provides a community for marginalized kids. Those who need support, or have social anxiety, or are isolated, can get what they need in online groups. Kids who may not have access to books or a quality education have a whole world at their fingertips. And some may even be learning coding or development, which will be highly valuable skills in our new digital world. Are they more prepared for adulthood?
How all this unprecedented screen time ends up affecting our kids’ generation remains to be seen. But, whichever side you’re on, let’s face it, it’s not going away. Our kids have grown up with devices, and it’s the new normal. What we need to do as parents is accept it and learn as much as we can. Then, help our children moderate device use, get enough sleep and exercise, and have plenty of opportunities for face-to-face social interaction. Not to mention, model healthy screen time. It’s going to take a village. If we all get on the same page, we can make certain that technology use does not lead to addiction, and our kids have a healthy relationship with their devices and each other.
I'm a social media professional and mom to two boys. I started Hashtag Parenting because I saw many moms and dads struggling to keep up with parenting in the changing digital landscape - including myself! The ever-changing apps, myriad monitoring solutions, and the texting lingo! Whew. I wanted to make it easier to find the most recent information, all in one place. I hope this site is a source of information and support for you. Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn by clicking the icon directly below.