You are probably not able to leave your phone at home anymore
Today is my second last day of my 21-day challenge of not using screens after 8pm.
How is your New Year’s resolution going?
The last blog post I published was almost 3 weeks ago.
Do you also feel like you blinked and January just flies by?
Coming to the point and what this has to do with parenting, I have learned a lot over the last 3 weeks.
I found out so much about what screens are doing to our mental health and what we can do as parents to support our children and teenagers.
For every advantage the smart phone has brought into my life, I can find a disadvantage.
As I started out on my New Year’s challenge, I was open to exploring something new.
Last Summer, I discovered how much more sleep I got after I stopped using screens after 8pm for a month.
This time round my intention was to prepare myself for my first born receiving her first phone in a couple of months.
You would not believe that my state of fear increased since reading and researching the dangers about our common enemy.
After starting my last job for Apple the week after iPhone 1 was released and every employee receiving one for free, I was in absolute denial for over a decade.
Rumours came out about behavioural psychologists being at the forefront and finding out how to keep us engaged for longer.
I correct myself the knowledge has existed for a long time that human beings can be easily persuaded when our primal need of longing for connection and being socially liked and accepted is triggered.
What developers and inventors were tasked with was how this dopamine driven reward system inside all of us could be converted into a business model for tech companies and earn them billions.
Our vulnerabilities to want the latest update on news, like statuses and comments is providing valuable information which will be used against us through ad campaigns.
At the start I laughed it off and said to myself, I am just not going to fall for it.
However, what we are dealing with has become so sophisticated that my achilles heel is thrown in my face, every time I open social media.
Three weeks ago, I simply believed I had no self-control and I am much weaker than you.
Today, I have more knowledge and have found out that the Artificial Intelligence we are up against is much more powerful than I can protect my daughter from.
Normally, I am a glass half-empty kind of person and this 'social dilemma' (as Netflix calls it) could make me decide against my daughter receiving a phone until she is 18.
However, I am up for the challenge.
Life is so boring without challenges.
My belief is this: in the age of information overload and no more stopping cues when it comes to digital media, I am learning that we have an even more powerful weapon inside all of us.
Actually, let’s call it 'the most powerful energy’ and it is found inside of us: our feelings.
What I mean by that is that I am going to apply the same parenting principles I have been using for the last 12 years.
I determined by the state of my child’s emotions if something was good or bad for them.
When I wanted to know how many hours sleep my child needed, I didn’t read it in a book but observed how tired they are in the mornings.
When I wanted to gauge the amount of sweets they could handle, I also observed their behaviour after.
The older my children are growing, the more I have been able to reason with them and after my friend send me a recent article that reassured my trust that everything will recalibrated, I feel a lot more relaxed.
What I am trying to say is that my approach will be the same as it has always been and the phone usage will be a trial and error, same as the other boundary pushing extensions I have managed so far.
There will be some limits, like:
No phone during mealtimes
No phone in the bedrooms after a certain time in the evening
Extremely little exposure to social media such as self-worth reducing platforms
Continuous open conversation with my child how the phone is impacting her life.
Even though the statics are against us as parents and the anxiety and depression has doubled in US teenagers since the start of the last decade, I am a firm believer that our clear role modelling will be the deciding factor in our children’s mental health.
Based on experience as parent educator, I am more confident than ever before that we can meet the challenge of our 'children and teens on screens’.
My free event this week on this topic was really well received from the feedback I got afterwards.
For this reason I decided to offer a free monthly support group to you.
This will take place on either the 2nd Monday or 2nd Thursday of every month,
(I am still deciding on the weekday).
Screen-time, video games and social media is also a recurring topic over the 8 evenings of my parenting courses.
The first evening is all about setting boundaries with our child.
You will find answers to the questions:
How can I teach my child that it is not all about getting in life and my child not rejecting me?
Is there a happy medium that is neither giving out, nor giving in?
What is my right when it comes to parenting?
How much attention is enough?
What if I get it wrong sometimes?