My second-grader had a class play today, and before the curtain opened, the school’s headmaster made the request he now always makes before the excited, nervous elementary-schoolers in his care perform for their parents: “Grown-ups, can you please turn off and put away your cell phones?”
Heads swiveled around to make sure moms and dads in the back were complying. I saw one child nod pointedly toward a parent as if to say, “this time for real, Dad.”
Just like we parents get aggravated about our kids’ “obsession” with tablets, texting, and video games, this morning reminded me that children are growing equally irritated by the way we are so often bent over our phones, demanding “one more minute!” as we tap out a message or post. University of Washington and University of Michigan researchers recently discovered this too, in a survey of 249 families with kids between 10 and 17 about their technology usage. The study, one of the first to include findings related to kids’ feelings about their parents and screen time, is an eye-opener.When researchers asked kids what technology rules mom and dad needed some brushing up on, they had a lot of thoughts. Among other things, they said they wished their parents would:
Be more present. Children felt there should be no technology at all in certain situations, such as when a child is trying to talk to a parent.
Cut back on use. Parents should use technology in moderation and in balance with other activities.
Keep them safer. Parents should focus on establishing and enforcing technology-related rules for children’s own protection, primarily.
Put down the phone on the road! Parents should not text while driving or sitting at a traffic light.
Stop oversharing on social media. Parents shouldn’t share information online about their children without explicit permission.
Be less hypocritical. Parents should practice what they preach, such as staying off the Internet at mealtimes.
I’m going to keep this last one, especially, in mind as we head into the weekend—when screen limits get relaxed for everyone, and it’s all to easy to get mired in emails or Pinterest even after we announce that “time’s up!” on our own kids’ tablet time. If modeling the right behavior is the most effective form of good parenting, this is one area where I, for one, need a reminder. Perhaps a screen alert?