One of the most common concerns that I have heard from other mothers who have older kids (and that I have struggled with myself) is the fear and frustration regarding the negative impact social media is having on their kids and on their relationships with them. Technology is here to stay, whether we like it or not. So the question becomes, what can we do about it? Honestly, sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in surrender. What is a mom to do when we are on the battle lines, fighting against what feels like an enemy?
I've decided that technology doesn’t have to be our foe. We might be able to even embrace technology as a friend. Technology can actually encourage us to create face-to-face time with our children. Developing this space doesn’t need to be defeating or complicated when we take these eight easy steps to balance face time with tech time.Here are a few simple suggestions that I use to strike a balance between tech time and face time.
- Take ten
Taking time to connect with your teen doesn’t have to be stressful or a big deal. I know my kids feel uncomfortable when I come at them with this type of energy. I find ten minutes a day is a good touch point to start with. We can ask our kids to put away their cell phones during the ride to school or practice. When our kids are adolescents, think quality, not quantity.
- Seize the moment when an opportunity presents itself
When seemingly, out of the blue, one of my kids starts to talk to me, I have to remind myself to stop, look and listen. I literally say to myself, “Quit washing dishes, put the phone down, and turn away from your laptop. Stop!” It’s not easy for me to transition when I am “in the zone”. It takes a conscious reminder that this is a precious moment and I need to seize the opportunity.
- Be present and enjoy your teen
I strive to be someone my kids want to talk to and be with. Yes, It’s true, I am not their first choice. And, I also have to be curious about why they might not want to talk to me. When I stop to think about it, I don’t know if I would like to talk to me when I am with my kids. I try to slip in a teaching moment or start lecturing. I have found when I can lighten up and enjoy myself, they want to talk to me.
- Become conscious of the ways you are using technology
It’s easy to focus on the amount of time my teen uses technology, but if I’m honest, I am not much better. I get distracted by work deadlines, blog writing, e-mails and social media posts. There doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get it all done. If I want my teen to use technology responsibly, I to need to have a healthy balance between on-line and off-line time.
- Be intentional to spend technology free time together
Think outside of the box. What are some activities that are fun and different that we can do with our kids? (Click here for some ideas). I have a friend that recently took her girls on the el-train to a museum in downtown Chicago—just for the pure adventure of it. Get everybody on board by allowing your kids a turn to suggest the next activity.
I have learned to be persistent. Often my kids will initially balk at my ideas yet change their tone after the fact. Recently I went on an adventure with my daughters who fought me tooth and nail, only to have them thank me later for the fun day.
- Talk about your own struggles with distraction
Our teens are not the only ones who are distracted. Rather than being so critical of my kids and the ways they are absorbed, I can own the fact that I too am easily distracted. Discussing the importance of face-to-face time and how we also struggle can be more effective than lecturing them. The more I look at my own struggles with similar things, the more my tone changes with my kids, who in turn are more receptive to what I have to say.
- Use technology to build relationship
You have heard the old adage, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Technology can be our friend when it comes to connecting with our kids. A new study out of Brigham Young University said that teens who are connected with their parents on social media feel closer to them in real life. I try to find ways to use social media to benefit my relationship with my kids. With my son at college, I like to take funny pictures and send them to him just to say, “hey, thinking about you.”
- Be Curious (not judgmental) and Ask Questions
Sometimes the best thing we can do is to pay attention, stay connected and ask questions. Our children may feel isolated, sad, or lonely and turn to social media for support. For other kids, social media may reinforce feelings of sadness, not quite fitting in, or the pressure to look or be a certain way.
We can be curious (not judgmental) and ask questions,
- How does social media make you feel?
- What do you like? What don’t you like?
- What apps do you like best?
I have found that when I intentionally make the time for face-time with my teen, I am able to view technology less as a foe and more as a friend. Instead of fighting against “the enemy”, I am actually fighting for something. That something is connecting and building a relationship with my teen. And, that is something worth fighting for.