There is a lot of anxiety about the impact mobile devices has on youth and families. Every day I receive news alerts about teen mental health, anxiety and depression caused by the impact of social media and excessive time online. And it is true that never before has a generation of parents had so much perceived less control over what is happening with their children, teens and young adults.
One of the more reasonable headlines recently comes from The Guardian and it reads: When it comes to claims about screen time, we need more sense and less hype, by Pete Etchells. He refers to a recent study of U.S. teens that social media use is correlating with increased instances of depression and suicide. He notes that this study is not news, as there is a lot of concern about the disruptive impact of devices and there is a tendency towards “overly-simplistic scaremongering claims.” This new study is associated with Jean Twenge’s Atlantic Monthly article, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?, giving more fuel to fears that online living is killing our young.
And while there is good reason for concern, here is the problem with “scaremongering”: there is blame involved. And when there is blame you give up power. With blame your mental energy is focused on someone or something that you choose to agree is “in control” of you, your child or your family. (Note: however, holding people accountable for offenses without condemnation in your heart is forgiveness which is the empowering antidote to blame). For many families, technology may be associated with an all-consuming chaos as their family relationships that have become vacant gestures and routines. If you are lucky, perhaps there is at least some overt hostility to contend with.
Kick hostility to the curb. Contact Joanna for the password access to Quick Start to a Fresh Start 10-minute video
So the question remains, is the smartphone and social media in charge of your teen and dominating your family life? The answer lies in what you want to believe, and in that regard, your family creed is the foundation for uniting your family to regulate the use of technology.
Your world view, whether you see the world full of risk and promise, or just full of risk and blame matters more than ever. Because the impact of social media is so intensely personal and engages the brain much like a drug, it is important to acknowledge that your perception is your reality. This is true for you and your teen. So what do you believe about your personal power and about the power of your tech-savvy children?
At Core Connectivity, we encourage families to consider the mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible as the cornerstone of your family “screen time” creed. That every human being has been granted intelligent life and free will by one benevolent Creator of all humanity, and this is power to choose your own thoughts and actions despite what is happening in the world. This wisdom thought put into action defines the freedoms from tyranny in the founding of the United States of America. It is a universal truth about power for people of all creeds, including atheists, and social and ethnic backgrounds that must be defended, or it will be surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. And so with this mustard seed of faith as the reference point for regulating the use of technology in the home, it is possible to create a family creed that reflects the discipline of being trustworthy tech-savvy citizens in the home and in society.
Below are some steps to formulate your family creed:
Step 1. Conduct a self-assessment
List your own fears. What are your main fears of concerns about your child’s using texting and social media? List them all, no matter how serious and silly they seem. (Examples: My child is distant and I do not know what they are thinking; I fear my child will get depressed and think about suicide; I am anxious that my child will be exposed to and become hooked on internet porn; I am afraid that my son/daughter will be lured into sexual exploitation; I worry that my child is being bullied and there is nothing I can do to stop it; I am fearful that my child’s obsession with video games is ruining his future; I am afraid that my son/daughter will give away personal information and a predator will snare him/her; I am afraid that social media is making my child into somebody who is hostile and insecure; I worry that my child will not hold up the values of our family in their online world.)
Step 2. Expectations
Describe the expectations you have for your children as members of your family and users of technology? (Examples: to be good citizens, no bullying and gossiping; no nude photos; no internet porn; pick one or two social media platforms and allow parents to follow/be in friend network; parents have passwords to all apps and devices, etc.)
Step 3. List your desires for change
Define the specific changes you may want to see about how your family interacts with technology and one another that you believe will alleviate your fears/concerns. (Examples: Put down the device and give 100 percent attention when talking in person; listen to one another; no devices at the dinner table; discuss before downloading and using apps; a designated time when texting and social media is closed off, etc.)
Step 4. Specify your leadership by example
Now make a list of the things you will do to demonstrate the change you want to see in your family. (Examples: I will always put down the device when I am with my children, even if they are paying attention to the device; I will be patient and ask my children to show me what is happening in their online world; I will protect my child’s privacy by monitoring their online activity without blabbing their business to others and commenting on everything I disagree with; I will do my best to stop judging and making demeaning comments about technology and the outrageous things youth are doing with sex, violence and drugs; I will ask my children what they think and/or what they know about a topic, and not offer my opinion in response; If I see something in my child’s online activity that raises alarms, I will not freak out – rather, I will ask my child to tell me about it so we can form a united course of thought and action; I will monitor my child’s online activity without judging them, and I will make any comments or corrections offline, in person; I will honor the rules I want to have in place such as no devices at the dinner table, and a time when I log off social media and stop responding to texts at the end of the day; I will make a conscious effort to be accessible to my children with a hopeful spirit and sound mind.)
Step 5. Share your vision
Once you have identified the things you are prepared to do in order to improve family relationships and open communication, then meet with your family to share your vision and ask for their input.
- Give an overview of the behaviors that are concerning
- Offer the things you are prepared to do in order to make a difference
- Then ask your family to consider how this mustard seed of faith about a free society applies to their use of technology. Does the device control you, or are you in charge of the device?
- Create a family creed that features family relationships over technology
Below is an example of a Fresh Start family creed to strengthen family relationships and regulate the use of technology:
We believe home should be a sanctuary and that every member of our family contributes to or disturbs the peace. The “Golden Rule” to do unto others as you would have them do unto you is the standard in our home. We are governed by love and forgiveness. We believe that every individual has the ability to think for himself and is accountable for his own thoughts and actions, on and offline.
Therefore, we expect individuals to follow house rules, learn from their mistakes and we offer a clean slate after consequences.
We respect individual differences and share common values of honesty and kindness. Children have a right to their opinions and can express dissent respectfully. Parents are guardians; they are a trusted resource to impart wisdom and offer instructive discipline.
To learn more about house rules to manage family screen time, contact Joanna.
- Sierra College Roseville Campus
- April 11 and April 18, 2018 6pm to 9pm
- Learn more and register here.
- Instructor: Joanna Jullien
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.