These are the initial three words to best describe my feelings while hearing speaker James Steyer, author of the book “Talking Back to Facebook” the other evening.
James Steyer author of “Talking Back to Facebook” and Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media.
Mr. Steyer, one of the country’s most respected experts on children’s media and education was a gracious and a more than qualified speaker. As a parent, I felt honored to become better informed and armed with the latest tips, strategies and data about digital technology and media. He did not personally spark these emotions.
It was all me. It was the part of my heart and brain as the loving parent of two young girls and wife.
Last week, I discussed the evolution of technology over the past 35 years of my life in my post “A Parent’s Digital Technology Confession.” However, I feel compelled to share my thoughts following the presentation for those that could not attend.
Before leaving that evening, my eight-year-old daughter asked where I was going. I explained that I was attending an event to learn about how to better “help her as a parent when it comes to using technology.” She fretfully responded, “Oh no, mom, you are going to take our technology away!”
Red flag alert.
Faces of Concern
I sat with other parents in the crowd. I could see the looks of worry and distress as images of young girls displaying their bare bodies on Facebook, young boys stabbing characters in video games and children with their eyes glazed over like zombies flashed across the screen.
A large knot had began forming in my throat during most of the presentation.
However, the shock and awe didn’t end there:
• Over the past five years, there has been an increase in media use – from nearly 6 1/2 hours to over 7 1/2 hours today.
• Kids ages eight to 18 spend more time with media than they do with their parents, or in school.
• Consumer Reports reported last year that more than 7.5 million American kids under the age of 13 have joined Facebook.
• Teenagers text an average of 3,400 times a month.
Enough stats to make you realize that “Parent of the Year Award” may not adorn your mantle?
Well, I am “guilty” like many of you. I am guilty of offering my kids the “shut-up toy” as Mr. Steyer referred to it. I too often hand over the iPhone, iPad, television – so I can focus on my task at hand.
In my head I think: “That will keep them busy for awhile!” (Shaking your head up and down right now, uh?)
Change is a Comin’
During Mr. Steyer’s talk, I felt an internal change occurring, though. With my iPhone, blog, Web site, laptop and social media, I feel as though I’ve been under the hypnosis and addiction of media and digital technology. This partially explains why it has been rather easy for me to hand this addiction to my children.
I had evolved into a technology and media zombie. I had let media control me. Rather than me control it.
Once the bad parent guilt slightly faded, I began to make a plan for change by jotting down this list down:
For my kids:
1) Reset and reinforce screen time limits
2) Schedule theme nights that don’t involve technology, such as an Outdoor Fun Time (rather than being inside), Game Night, Cooking Night, etc.
3) Encourage more free play, both alone and with playmates/other families
Photo credit: http;//www.myfourhensphotography.com
And just like our kids need rules, so do we as parents. I began to make another plan for myself.
1) Turn off my iPhone in the car (unless using for Google maps/hand free audio directions)
2) Limit/turn off computer/iPhone use between 3:00-7:00 p.m. (kids are out of school/awake these hours)
3) Limit/turn off computer/iPhone use when my husband arrives home from work (marriages can suffer from overuse of technology too!)
Now, you may be thinking these rules could be extreme. I am sure there will be days I mess up, but that’s OK. The important thing to remember is that it starts with me by role modeling healthy media and digital technology behavior.
You may also be thinking, so what if my kids uses digital technology and/or media for five or more hours per day?
Take a quick Google search.
The risk and dangers for kids who are overexposed to digital technology and media at early ages include obesity, lower grades, less content, poor social and relationship skills, poor body image perception, addiction and privacy issues.
Here are a few tips that Mr. Steyer offered for kids and parents:
1. Set firm time limits: Minimal or no screen time for tots under two and average two hours a day for older kids.
2. Unplug: Take personal technology timeouts.
3. Do your homework: Choose age-appropriate material all platforms
1. Cyberbullying and digital harassment is never okay: Stand up for others and flag cruel comments that you see online.
2. Always use the strictest online privacy settings: Make sure they’re up-to-date on all your devices.
3. Never share personal information or passwords online.
Check out Common Sense Media for more tips and ratings of children’s media.
So, wish me luck in my quest to be a better parent and role model when it comes to technology. Now, it’s time to turn off my laptop – the kids will be home from school any minute.
Are you guilty of offering your child the “shut-up” toy too often? How would you describe media/technology in your family? Do you need to make a plan for change? Any tips you could offer?