I’d like to share a story from a conversation I had with my colleague, Dr. Dan Siegel. What follows is a story that highlights the importance of helping our kids develop a healthy relationship with technology before they move into their adult lives.
Ryan’s* parents reached out to me after discovering that he had effectively dropped out of college in his first semester away. Marlene* and Steve* were attentive parents. They both worked hard to provide Ryan and his sister with a good life. They had plenty of restrictions on screen time, limiting Ryan’s video game time throughout high school with stringent consequences if he broke the rules.
But they focused entirely on monitoring their kids, rather than mentoring them.
When Ryan arrived at college, he was exhilarated with his newfound freedom. No one was there to tell him to turn off his screens! He could play video games to his heart’s content…until one in the morning…then 3:00 am…and then 5:00 am. Within a month, he was so tired he began skipping classes frequently. Meals and showers became sporadic. The intoxication of unlimited access to his online world derailed the life he was meant to be living in the real world.
It wasn’t until Steve and Marlene received notification that their son was on probation that they discovered what had been going on. Ryan is now living at home and enrolled in a local community college as he works with a counselor to help him get on track. It has been a very difficult year for this family.
I love technology. I don’t believe we should deprive ourselves of the numerous benefits it delivers–whether it’s the ability to connect with loved ones, learn, create, play cool games…the list goes on.
But just as we wouldn’t leave the liquor cabinet open for our 14 year old or pretend they aren’t going to be curious about alcohol, we need to help our kids acquire the skills they will need to maintain balance in their screen-time use and manage the complexities of online relationships, while staying fully engaged with the real world.
For more support on this, join me with Janell Burley Hofmann, author of iRules, for our Master Class on Slow Tech Parenting. Janell and I will offer strategies and tools to help our families live balanced, fulfilling lives–using technology, without being used up by it.
It is uncharted territory, but with attention and care, we can help our kids enjoy the journey without getting lost along the way.