We hadn’t had dinner together in a long time, so I thought we could have a good father-son night out for a change. You know, just us boys. Well, we get to the diner and I’m trying to have a conversation with him. I start asking questions about his final exams and the end of the basketball season, but nothing. No reply. He was just sitting there on his phone. We finally get our food and I start eating while he’s just texting away. So I try it again: I ask him a few more questions and even offer to take him to a Lightning game, but nothing. It was just me having dinner with the back of his phone.
In the last decade, technology and digital media have gone through an impressive boom. We are now able to communicate with friends halfway across the globe, get answers to every question we can think of and even find everything we need at the click of a few buttons. There’s no denying that the tech boom has brought endless benefits, but it can also cause problems if overdone.
Young slouched shoulders, eyes glued to the screen, too many arguments and another day of staring at the back of a phone. Sound familiar? It appears as if our youth, from children, to teenagers, to young adults, are far too attached to social media, video games and the Internet. This can have a tremendous impact in their lives as well as your home dynamic, but how can you appropriately empower the ones you love to navigate the digital world safely and find the right balance? The Tampa psychologists of Rice Psychology Group know that making a difference can be difficult, but we’re ready to help.
You may feel as if your loved one’s time spent texting or online is having a negative impact, but with some effort, you can find a healthier balance.
Their Faces Lit Up
According to a report from Common Sense Media, parents and their teenagers recognize the impact technology has in their lives. The report polled 1,200 teens and parents, and found that one in two teens feel “addicted” to their phones while 60% of parents share their opinion. Some of the report’s findings additionally highlight behaviors that would benefit from a balance in device use:
- Distraction – 77% of parents agree that their children are easily distracted by their devices and fail to pay attention when the family is together.
- Conflict – Arguments about device usage are a daily part in the lives of one-third of parents and teens.
- Compulsion – The necessity to immediately respond to texts and other notifications is felt by 72% of teens and 48% of parents.
- Risky behavior – 56% of parents admit that they check their phones while behind the wheel. 51% of teens admit to witnessing this.
If your teen or young adult has tried to decrease their amount of texting to no avail, gets defensive when you discuss their texting habits or becomes frustrated when unable to text, he/she could be showing signs of compulsive or addictive behavior. A study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture revealed a few indicators of compulsive texting:
- Checking one’s phone constantly
- Snapping and rudeness when interrupted
- Skipping sleep to text
- Difficulty getting homework done and suffering slipping grades
All Fun and Games?
How many times have you stepped into your kid’s room to see them glued to the screen as they wreak havoc through a video game? Chances are you see this on a regular basis. The truth is, kids are spending way too much time on their video games and it can have a considerable impact on their lives.
A recent Pew Research report revealed about 91% of boys own a video game console while a New York Times survey found that most boys who play video games generally play the ones that are violent in nature. Opinions on whether or not violent games lead to violent behavior are split, yet many studies have found that kids exhibit aggressive behavior after playing violent games.
Many kids will try to justify their gaming by claiming they’re being social with their friends online, but there are alternatives online games that will keep them social while doing away with the violence:
- Animal Crossing – Life in a town full of anthropomorphic animals and many other fun surprises.
- Portal – A game that tests the brain by putting the player in an area full of puzzles and mind-bending gameplay.
- Minecraft – Chances are you’ve heard of this one. It lets you create what you want, it’s fun and it’s a much better alternative to violent games.
- Dear Esther – This game puts the player in a beautiful deserted island and is driven by nothing but a strong story and narrative.
- Gone Home – After returning to an empty home after a year abroad, you have to piece together what happened with letters, diary entries and memos.
Finding a Balance
So, how much screen time should your loved ones get? This is one of those questions that doesn’t necessarily have a concrete answer. After all, every family has different dynamics and, in this day and age, screen time is slowly becoming regular time. However, there are some steps you can take to find a balance that will benefit you and your loved ones:
- Lead by example – Good parenting requires your attention, so be a role model and limit your own screen time.
- The right content – The truth is that the quality of content your loved ones put their eyes on is more important than the time they spend on the screen. Prioritize how your loved ones use their devices rather than giving them a time limit.
- Participate – It’s important to interact with your family’s social media by spending time with them in the digital world. Your perspective on what you see will make an impact on the way your children understand social media.
- Set a limit – Like many other things, tech use must have a limit and it’s up to you to set it.
- No-phone zones – Reserve spaces in your home where devices are not allowed. Additionally, preserve your family’s mealtime and charge phones outside of bedrooms to encourage togetherness in your home and develop healthy eating and sleeping habits.
- Mistakes happen – Even in social media! When they occur, turn them into teachable moments by handling them with empathy. However, if actions such as “sexting” or posting self-harm images are involved, a risk-taking behavior assessment may be needed.
We’ll Walk You Through the Process
There may be times where you’ll feel as if finding the right tech balance for your family is nearly impossible! When this happens, remember that the team at Rice Psychology Group is ready to help. We will assess and evaluate your situation in a relaxing environment to make you and your family feel at ease when talking with us.
Our Collaborative Approach to our parent consultation is designed to help us work with you to find the solution that is realistically doable for your whole family. If you have any questions about what we have to offer, don’t hesitate to give us a call in Tampa today.