Parenting in the Technology Age: What to Do When Mistakes are Made

Parenting in the Technology Age: What to Do When Mistakes are Made

    In last week’s blog, we looked at setting limits for technology use and how to detect signs that our kids might be getting hooked on technology. This week we look at some things you can do if your kids make mistakes with technology use.  

    Even when we set enforceable limits and carefully monitor their computer, cell phone, and Internet use, great kids can make mistakes with technology. When this happens, Love and Logic parents need to respond with empathy and take appropriate steps to protect their kids as well as help them to make better decisions in the future. 

    What To Do When Kids Make Mistakes

    When faced with the massive temptations whirling about the web, it seems inevitable that kids will be exposed to inappropriate material on the Internet. What's a parent to do when they discover that their child or teen has been visiting sites containing sexual material, racist, cult, terrorist propaganda, or other questionable material on the Internet?

    Safety First

    Before visiting with the child, remove or disable any devices you can. Although we can't control every Internet access point available to our kids, we must control what we can.

    Protect Yourself

    Immediately report to the police any inappropriate content involving minors. Absolutely report any threats of violence. Parents who’ve tried to cover up or “smooth over” incidents of such nature have found themselves in legal hot water.

    If Empathy is Impossible in the Moment, Delay the Consequence

    In an ideal world, a parent would respond with great empathy:

    This is so sad. Today I discovered that you were on a website that contained…

    In this less-than-ideal world, we might need an alternative:

    I am so angry right now, that I can’t even think. We'll talk later when I'm calm.”

    When Everyone is Calmer, Listen to Your Child’s Heart

    In some situations, children’s hearts are filled with so much sadness, darkness, anxiety, or other forms of hurt that it is necessary to get professional help. In addition to providing healthy limits and loving consequences, the most effective parents look below the surface by asking sincere questions and listening without judgment:

    I really want to understand.
    What about this is interesting to you?

    Is this something that you are serious about or are you just kind of curious?

    Some kids get into that stuff because they are really hurting.
    Does that sound familiar to you?

    With Great Empathy, Hand the Problem Back

    Over time, perhaps plenty of time, the child or teen must take real action steps to develop and maintain a plan for making healthier decisions. Depending on their situation, this may involve such steps as conscientious participation in therapy, demonstrating greater respect and responsibility in other areas of their life, and agreeing to keep parental monitoring software on their devices.

    Until the parent feels thrilled with the youngster’s plan and their overall attitude about it, no devices should be provided.

    Replace Electronic Screens with Loving Relationships

    There are proactive steps parents can take to help their kids overcome their obsession with technology. Kids don't miss their computers and cell phones nearly as much as when they have parents who spend plenty of time with them playing catch, riding bikes, sledding, and doing other sorts of good old-fashioned things that build relationships.

    Our audio, Real Talk on Technology: Getting Your Kids to Make Good Digital Decisions, is an excellent resource for helping you cope with the challenges of technology use by kids. It includes conversations with teenagers, who discuss the temptations and dangers on the Internet with me.


    Thanks for reading!

    Dr. Charles Fay

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