Every day, our kids have opportunities to take cutting edge “courses” on the ins and outs of the latest technology, including social media platforms. Visiting with their friends, they learn what’s hot, what’s not, and how to work around most of the technological safeguards we put in place.
While they are taking these “graduate-level courses,” most of us are working long hours, paying bills, cooking, cleaning, fixing broken stuff, and trying to squeeze a few more hours out of each day. As a result, our ability to keep ahead of our kids’ technological savvy is impossible for most of us. Watching them every second of the day is also unrealistic. Although it’s tough for some of us to admit, we have very little direct control over whether they make good or bad digital decisions.
Real solutions to technology issues have little to do with technology and almost everything to do with relationships.
Because we have little or no direct control over any issue, we must rely on helping our kids become motivated to make good decisions from the inside-out, rather than the outside-in. This means helping them feel so loved that they want to make good choices. It means providing limits in ways that reduce the odds of unwinnable power-struggles. It also means allowing them to experience empathy and consequences when they blow it, so that the focus is on their poor decision rather than on our anger. It’s all about spending time with them, having fun with them, and showing them, through our example, that there’s more to life than screens and cyber-drama.
The Root Causes of Technology Addiction
At Love and Logic, our focus has always been to provide simple, down-to-earth strategies for raising happy and well-behaved kids. The problems and the solutions associated with technology and social media addiction have relatively little to do with the technology itself and everything to do with relationships.
People at risk for developing these problems feel so badly about themselves, that they will do anything to escape into a world where they feel competent, powerful, and liked.
For example, a study published by J. Kwon, C. Chung, and J. Lee in 2011 (Community Health Journal, 47:113-121) found that those at highest risk for developing these problems score high on the following variables:
Escape from Self
The child believes that they don’t measure up. Compared to the perceived standards of their parents, peers, school, self, or world, they feel inadequate, unattractive, or responsible for everything that goes wrong.
Severe anxiety and depression are the logical result of a child believing that they’re worthless.
Perceived Parent Hostility/Lack of Affection
Loving relationships matter! Kids at risk for escape from self and depression believe that they can’t do anything to please their parents: “Nothing I do is good enough.”
Low Parental Supervision
Lack of supervision communicates lack of valuing: “My parents don’t even care enough about me to wonder where I am, who I’m with, or what I’m doing.”
Lack of Supportive Peer Relationships
When kids lack the skills to develop and maintain positive peer relationships, the following vicious cycle develops:
Lack of friends = Negative Mood = Negative Behavior = More Negative Mood
Although practical limits and accountability are always essential, lasting solutions require that we help all children feel competent, loved unconditionally, and capable of enjoying positive peer relationships. For more ideas about how to help kids with the challenges and effects of technology and social media, listen to our MP3 audio, Real Talk on Technology.
Thanks for reading!