We already knew from the Kaiser study that kids and teens have significantly increased their media consumption to nearly 8 hours a day. Now a new study has found that a large number of parents (one-third) feel that their children’s digital devices make it more difficult for parents to communicate with their kids about risky behaviors.
Thirty-eight percent of parents felt TV was a hindrance, while 37% said computers didn’t help and 33% sited video games as distracters. I know it’s hard to talk to teens about touchy subjects like drugs and alcohol. And I so know that getting their attention about potentially awkward topics like safe sex is tough. Shucks, getting their attention at all is a challenge.
I started something new this summer. With four of my five children home from school, 3 teens and 1 pre-teen, I decided to call mandatory meetings every morning. I run the meetings like planning sessions where we talk about what we are doing for the day and what my household expectations are. It's my way of keeping tabs on everyone and having my desires and mandates known by all. Aside from the fact that the meeting times seem to be too early for anyone's liking, everyone cooperates. And as a result, we really have accomplished a lot this summer -- job searches, community service hours, a household cleaning schedule (which is an all time first!) and zero car-sharing conflicts (also a first).
However, at this morning’s meeting, I had trouble keeping everyone's attention. There was a computer at the table and everyone had their cell phones in front of them, including me. These electronic devices are helpful during our meetings in case we need to go online to confirm a date or time or look up information (like a camp or school event). But, the machines also draw our attention away from the tasks at hand. I am just as guilty as the kids -- I was uploading my BlogHer conference pictures onto my Facebook page prior and a bit during the meeting.
All of this technology is a blessing and a curse. It’s a bit ironic that cell phones, smart phones and computers help us coordinate our communications better, but at the same time keep us apart. My family is so much better at letting each other know where we are and how to meet up. And yet, when we are actually together in the same room, we seem so distracted and fractured. We seem to prefer interacting with folks who are somewhere else rather the people who are right in front of us.
My husband and I were out to dinner the other day and we watched a family of four sit at the table across from us. For several minutes -- several minutes -- none of them spoke to each other until the food arrived. They were all on their devices -- Dad on Blackberry, Mom on iPhone, teen on Sidekick and kid on gaming device. My husband and I looked at each other and agreed that this is what the American family has come to -- eating together… but not. At least in the olden days when families ate in front of the TV, they were watching the same program together! Again, though, Mom and Dad were and are just as distracted as the kids.
So study notwithstanding, it seems to me teen exposure to media and use of their digital devices does pose a myriad of problems -- they keep us apart, stream constant doses of questionable, often immoral media into our kids heads, and make them hard to reach. But, if we're honest, we have to admit that perhaps the problem doesn’t just lie with the kids.
I’m just sayin’…
Do you think technology is interfering with your ability to communicate important information to your kids? Are we parents just as guilty as over-users and enablers ourselves?
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