Why Parenting Matters
Any parent knows kids follow their lead, for good and for bad. Kids will, consciously or not, imitate their parents as a fallback for every kind of situation, from dealing with confrontation to picking what they eat for lunch. Furthermore, parents set and enforce the rules from which kids learn.
Of course, this doesn’t mean kids are clones of us. Kids will push back against rules they think are arbitrary and can choose whether their parents are a positive example or a negative one. Yet we can mistakenly write off the influence we have on our own children.
For example, you can set your parental control app to the strictest possible standards. But if your children don’t understand your concerns, or have friends pushing them in the opposite direction, ultimately it won’t affect their behavior.
This is especially true in “do as I say, not as I do” situations. If your teens can’t look at their phones, for example, but see you constantly being tugged by notifications and alerts, they’ll wonder why you’re not taking a dose of your own medicine.
So, how do you fill in the other part of the equation? How do you parent so that internet controls work as you intend them to?
Parenting And Smartphones
Begin with a long conversation. Explain why you have certain rules, and make it clear that the rules can change over time. Today’s tween is tomorrow’s teen, and they’ll have different needs for their phones.
Lay out what behavior you support, like researching homework or reading a book on a phone screen during a trip, and which you don’t, like spending excessive time on a manipulative game or focusing on friends instead of homework or chores. Everyone in the family should know they can come to you to talk about their phones. Be sure to make clear your concerns, like too many notifications distracting from chores or too much time spent on games.
Keep the conversation going as well. Ask your family what they’re using their phones for. If they’ve found a new app or website, ask them about what it does. If they have a new friend, learn what you can about them. Let your kids know they can come talk to you about anything they see on the internet and how it makes them feel.
If the rules get broken, or if there’s an attempt to break them, go over why the rule is in place and enforce a fair, reasonable consequence that helps kids understand your concern.
Every family will be different in their approach. Some will allow personal time on screens at different times and in different places. What should stay consistent is how engaged you are as a parent. If kids understand that you care, and the reasons behind the rules, they’ll grow up to be responsible phone users themselves. Need help enforcing the rules? Learn more about Screen Time.