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Parents’ Biggest Enemies – Technology

Parents’ Biggest Enemies – Technology

Would you drive down the interstate at 90 mph with your toddler and baby in the front seat, with no car seats, and unbuckled? Of course not. Parents need to look at the real dangers of the internet in the same way. The dangers of the internet and technology with our kids are not as physical as much as they are mental and emotional. We need to take precautions, much like we would with car seats in the vehicle, to ensure that our children are safe on the web. We are as much responsible for our children’s’ emotional and mental well being as we are their physical well being. Technology poses risks that are not necessarily brand new to us, but they weren’t around when most of us were kids.

Most of us raising kids today did not grow up in this era of advanced technology. Our version of technology was a digital watch or the original Nintendo. With the internet being at the tips of our fingertips at any moment of the day, our children are also growing up in this new era of being connected to the web and other people all the time. This can be a scary thought, because there are some frightening people in this world and dangers on the internet that we don’t want our children to be exposed to or involved. There are some practical ways that you can protect your child, as well as some conversation points you need to have with your children in regard to technology. Below are those tips.

Limiting Time To Prevent the Disintegration of Family

Technology is a real force in the home. If you don’t set reasonable limits, it will naturally take over your family time. Whether it is television, video games, or surfing the web, it all takes time away from the family. When time with the family becomes scarce, there become a distance between parent and child. Children need quality time as well as quantity time. If technology, whether by use of parent or by child, takes priority over family relationships there is a problem.

The Huffington Post reported on this issue of family being disrupted and even destroyed by the overuse of technology in the home. The following was stated in their article:[1]

Rather than hugging, playing, rough housing, and conversing with children, parents are increasingly resorting to providing their children with more TV, video games, and the latest iPads and cell phone devices, creating a deep and irreversible chasm between parent and child.

Set limits that are appropriate

There should be limits set in every household for technology usage. If anything goes policy, then technology will likely win. There are risks to overuse of technology including sleep problems, interference with homework being completed, taking time away from family interactions, reduced physical activity (which can lead to obesity), and even potential addiction to technology. Here are some tips on how to set limits:

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  • No technology in bedrooms. Tech including smart phones, televisions, or game consoles is not allowed in bedrooms of anyone who is not an adult.
  • No technology at meal time. This includes both parents and children. Set your phones in a basket it another room, so that they are not even visible. Allow for meal time to be a time to connect with one another and not to be a time when everyone is continually checking their smart phone or glancing at a television in the background.
  • Set screen time limits. Set specific daily or weekly limits for your children. This is easier with some devices (such as the Kindle Fire for kids which I use for my own children), as parents can set the time limit on the device. When they reach the screen time limit the device locks.
  • Have specific rules that are written for your children regarding technology. These become your house rules for technology. Once they are able to read, the rules should be written and posted. Kids of all ages need structure and they appreciate knowing the do’s and the don’ts of the household. Technology is no exception, so make your household rules clear in this area.
  • Have consequences for breaking the house rules regarding technology. Most often the easiest and most effective punishment is taking away time and/or access to a device.

Keep Monitor of the Content

The internet is knowledge at your fingertips, but it can also be a cesspool of illegal, illicit, and immoral activity if you go to the wrong sites or engage with the wrong people. If you can get it on the internet, then just think, your kids can get access to it too. There are some ways you can prevent your child from being exposed to bad content. You can also help reduce their likelihood to be exposed to or influenced by people that pose an emotional, mental, or physical threat to your child.

Devices that can help filter content

There are a variety of devices that parents can utilize to filter content for kids in their home. One of the more popular choices is the Disney Circle. There are other software and hardware options on the market. Do your research and find one that best fits your family and your needs.

Don’t expect a filter device to do your job. You still need to monitor what your children are viewing online. You need to go to the websites that they go to, so you can check it out for yourself. No filtering device is foolproof. They can still get access to things you would not like them to view, so you have to be an aware parent even while utilizing a filtering agent.

Sex trafficking can start online

One of the real dangers for teens online is the exposure to people that mean to use them and harm them, especially for monetary or sexual gain. Internet Safety 101 discussed this topic and explained how teens can be lured into a sex trafficking situation:[2]

Much like the grooming tactics employed by sexual predators, sex traffickers lure their target into an online relationship, with the ultimate goal of meeting in person. Traffickers use a deliberate process to identify and recruit their victims. It happens in three main phases: Scouting, manipulating and trapping. Victims are often showered with love, romance and promises of a better life. Others are lured in with false promises of a job, or given expensive gifts. The end game of the trafficker (or pimp) however, is to force or manipulate their target into prostitution.

Sex trafficking is a real problem here in the United States. It is now the second fastest growing criminal industry. Drugs is still at the top of the list, but sex trafficking is now in second place. The need for parents to protect their teens is real. Prevention starts first at home, by having good relationships with your kids and teens so they can talk to you about what is happening in their life. The second component of that protection is to monitor their internet usage.

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A transparent view of the kid’s devices

The policy with a child in your home, of any age, whether they are 6 or 16 is that they allow parents to have all passwords and view-ability of their electronic devices. This means that if a child in your home has a smart phone, you as a parent, have the right to commandeer that device and look into their activity at any given moment of time. Does it mean you need to be jerky about it? No, of course not, as it will hinder your relationship. You do however, need to make it known before the device is even purchased, that you, as the parent, have the responsibility to check up on the activities that your child is engaged in online for their own protection.

For children in the household who do not yet have smart phones a good policy for online usage is to have it only allowed in a certain area of the home such as the living room or kitchen. Set up the laptop or computer so that it is visible as you walk by the child when they are online. This way you know what they are looking at while online and can glance over and monitor their activity at anytime.

A conversation could save their life

Kids and teens lack real world experience and they are naïve. They often feel invincible. Most honestly believe that they can handle any situation that can come their way. If they meet up with the wrong person in an abandoned parking lot and they have a gun to their head, they won’t be able to “handle” that situation. They will be in a world of hurt and in way over their head.

Parents need to sit down and have a chat with their pre-teens and teens to discuss the potential dangers that are on the internet to prevent their child from meeting the wrong people online and getting in over their head. It is appropriate to explain to them that there are bad people out there who mean to harm. These strangers can portray themselves online as a potential friend, using fake photos and aliases, to lure teens into trusting them. Your job as a parent is to monitor their devices to help prevent contact with the wrong people.

As a parent, you should also set rules about which apps and social media sites they are allowed to be on. The goal is to protect your child and get them through their youth as unscathed as possible. It doesn’t mean you bury your head in the sand and ban all technology, because that’s not a logical solution and it does not help prepare them to be young adults who can function in today’s world. You do need to help prepare them to protect themselves online and use technology in a safe and emotionally healthy manner.

Here are some things you should discuss with your pre-teen and teens in regard to technology:

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  • What you put out on the internet is out there forever.  This is especially important to recognize with photos. Things can be deleted, but they cannot be taken back. They are out there in cyber world.
  • The portrayal of lives on social media makes everyone look happy, fun, and successful. People, in general, only put the good parts of their life on social media. It can make teens and young adults feel like they don’t measure up to the lives of others. They need to understand that what they are seeing on social media is only a small sliver of the lives of others and it is almost always the best sliver.
  • Typing things into a screen makes it easier to say things you wouldn’t say in person. In heated moments of anger or passion people can type things that they soon deeply regret. Teach your child to set the device aside if they feel like saying or typing something that they may regret. If it needs to be said, it can wait a few minutes or a few hours for the emotions to calm, so that rational and logical thought can lead the way rather than emotions.
  • Friendships online do not replace real life relationships. They needs to have real, face-to-face interactions with their friends in order to have meaningful relationships.
  • Talk about reputation and privacy. Just because something is happening in their life does not mean the entire world or all of their social media friends need to know about it.
  • Stranger danger is real online. Not all profiles are legit. In addition to the dangerous people entangled in the world of sex trafficking there are also people out there who are known as Catfish.  A Catfish is a person who is pretending to be someone online who they are not.

A contract

Once you have established rules that you want your teen to follow in regard to their technology usage, in particular with a smart phone, you can develop a contract.

Before you let your child or teen take ownership of the phone under your watchful care, you write up a contract with the rules for usage. If you don’t want them to use snap chat or other specific apps, then put that in the contract. Keep in mind that new apps are always being released, so any apps that they want to download need to be approved by you, as the parent, first. Go over the contract and before they sign they must be in agreement with following these rules, or the device is taken away.

It is about protecting them emotionally, mentally, and physically. Present the contract in a way that helps them see you are being their protector, not the enemy. Treat the contract and conversations about their technology usage in a kind, open, sincere, and heartfelt manner. Don’t approach the topic with an iron fist, or you are more likely find yourself up against a rebellious teen.

Common Sense Media

A great resource for parents on age appropriateness of apps, media, technology, and more is Common Sense Media. Here is the mission statement from their website:

Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.

You can go to their free website and find a plethora of information on technology and media as it pertains to kids. For example, if you are unsure about whether a particular app is appropriate for your teen you can enter the name of the app in their search bar. Go to the page for the app and you can find reviews from both parents and teens. Even more helpful is the “what parents need to know” segment on the page for each app. This helps parents make informed decisions about apps that they may otherwise know nothing about.

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You Can Just Say No

Your kid does not need all the newest technology, games, phones, or devices. When it comes to smart phones, the longer you can hold out the better. It is like opening Pandora’s box once they get a smart phone and there is no turning back.

The pressure to fit in is real though, and it becomes more difficult for parents to say no to the smart phone the older their teens become. There is a campaign called Wait Until 8th that is encouraging all parents to sign a pledge to wait until their child is in 8th grade or age 14 to get a smart phone. This campaign outlines great reasons for holding off on the smart phone purchase including smart phones being a distraction from academics, they are addiction, they impair sleep, they interfere with relationships, and more. Check out their website above to learn more about the campaign and why you should consider holding off on a smart phone for your teen until they are in 8th grade.

Teach Them to Be Smart Online

Even with all the precautions such as filters, time limits, and monitoring apps, the best way to keep your child safe online is to teach them to actively think critically about their choices and how to be safe online. They should be aware of the do’s and don’t and your household policies regarding technology.

Teaching responsibility with technology is of great importance and will help them make better choices in the long run. Making responsible choices with technology and the internet should not be a one time conversation in your household. It needs to be an on going conversation, as technology is always changing.

Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

Reference

[1] Huffington Post: The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child
[2] Internet Safety 101: Sex Trafficking

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on December 20, 2019

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Kate sits down to the dinner table and is eager to be a good girl and eat her dinner like her Mom and Dad want her to do. She is a sweet girl who wants the approval of her parents very much. It is not always easy though. During dinner, she stands up and starts to leave the table because she has to use the bathroom. Her Dad yells at her to sit back down. He tells her “we don’t just get up from the dinner table, we wait and ask to be excused after everyone is finished eating.” She begins to protest, wanting to explain that she needs to use the bathroom. Her father becomes more upset with her and yells at her that she is now talking back and she is not allowed to say another word at the dinner table until everyone is finished eating and then she can be excused.

Unfortunately for Kate, she can’t hold it, and she has a little accident because she is too fearful to say a word to her Dad. She doesn’t want to get yelled at anymore. She also knows that in her home, kids don’t have a say. What Mom and Dad say is like words carved into stone. They are strict beyond reason and they will not bend their rules. Therefore, Kate felt that she had no choice in the matter and when she could no longer hold it. There was nothing she could do about it.

Kate’s parents are an example of authoritarian parenting. They are strict, they are not emotionally engaged with their children, and they have very high expectations for their children. This type of parenting style leaves children feeling disconnected from their parents.

Kate wanted to communicate to her parents that she had to use the restroom, but she couldn’t even get her words out because her parents have such strict rules and demands of her. They did not care to hear what she had to say, because upholding their rules was more important to them. In their household, a child’s opinions and feelings do not matter.

This kind of strict parenting is not helpful for children. It can damage a child and leave them with low self-esteem, mental health issues, and doing poor academically among other problems cited by research in Parenting Science.[1]

What Does Authoritarian Parenting Look Like?

In the 1960’s, a researcher and theorist by the name of Baumrind established the well known theory of parenting styles. Those four parenting styles, which are well known today, are authoritarian, authoritative, passive, and neglectful. For proactive parents that are trying hard to be good parents, they will usually lean toward either authoritarian or authoritative.

Authoritarian parenting involves strict parenting and high expectations for children. This can sound reasonable and even like good parenting. However, the strict parenting is often characterized by lack of compassion toward the child, little to no flexibility in rules, and complete control sought over the child’s behavior.

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Parents who use this parenting style believe it is their job to control the will and behavior of their children. An article in Psychology Today explains how authoritarian parents operate:[2]

Authoritarian parents believe that children are, by nature, strong-willed and self-indulgent. They value obedience to higher authority as a virtue unto itself. Authoritarian parents see their primary job to be bending the will of the child to that of authority—the parent, the church, the teacher. Willfulness is seen to be the root of unhappiness, bad behavior, and sin. Thus, a loving parent is one who tries to break the will of the child.

For example, Jake has authoritarian parents. He wants to stay out past curfew on a school night because he has an opportunity to play in a jazz ensemble. He has been playing the saxophone for years and his ambition is to play in a college jazz ensemble.

With Jake still being in high school, his parents have a curfew. On school nights, it is 8:00 pm. This rule is instituted because his parents believe they need to ensure that Jake gets his school work done each night and that he needs to be well rested for school the next day. However, they don’t explain the why of their rules to him, they simply tell him that those are their rules. The jazz ensemble is practicing at 8:00 pm on a Thursday night and they have invited Jake to come play with them. It is a well known group and a huge opportunity for Jake.

Unfortunately, his parents say no. Their authoritarian parenting style is unwavering. He wants to discuss the opportunity and its importance, but his parents will not even entertain the conversation. They stop him mid-sentence and go over their rules again. There is no flexibility.

If Jake’s parents had been authoritative, they would have taken the time to hear out his case and would likely have granted him a later curfew for that one instance. They would see that, although they have a curfew, there are some instances when an opportunity is worth bending the rules. They would ask that he has his homework done before going to play with the group, and that he come home as soon as the practice was finished.

Authoritative parents have rules, but they are also flexible based on reasonable requests for exceptions. The authoritative parents are interested in how their children are thinking and feeling. Conversely, authoritarian parents are not likely to be interested in hearing their child’s thoughts and feelings, because they want to control the will of their child, not come to some middle ground.

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Here are some characteristics of authoritarian parenting:

  • They have strict rules that are unyielding and unwavering. This is often called “heavy handed parenting.”
  • They do not want input from the child about rules. They also feel that the child’s opinion does not matter, because they are the parent thus are the supreme authority over the child.
  • There are severe punishments when rules are broken.
  • There is an emotional disconnection between parent and child, because the parent is not interested in what the child thinks or feels. They are more interested in controlling the behavior of the child and having the child be compliant to their rules.
  • Children are expected to listen to their parents and follow the rules, there are no exceptions. A child that voices their objections will likely be punished for doing so.
  • The parents have high expectations, especially when it comes to compliance of their rules.
  • Parents expect that their child will be obedient and they do not need to explain the “why” of their rules and expectations. Compliance is expected out of sheer obedience, not because the child understands the reasons why the rules are set. Parents do not feel the need to explain why they set their rules.
  • There is a failure to have attached relationships between parent and child because of the overly dominant nature of authoritarian parents and their unwillingness to allow their children to have their own voice or free will.

Authoritarian parents are driven by a belief that they need to control their children. This means controlling their children’s behavior to an extreme. They are inflexible and don’t take into account the child’s desires, emotions, or well-being as being as important to enforcing rules to get the desired outcome. Authoritative parents on the other hand, seek to guide and direct their children instead of control. There is a distinction.

The Problems of Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting has many negative consequences to children. Children who are raised in homes with extreme authoritarian parenting are more likely to become dependent on drugs and alcohol, have lower academic performance, and increased mental health issues according to Parenting for Brain.[3] Children who are raised with authoritarian parents are also more likely to have lower self esteem, inability to make decisive choices, and have social skills that are lacking.

When a child is raised to be taught day in and day out that their voice does not matter, then that child will likely be ingrained with that belief. They will not value their own opinions because they have been taught that what they think does not matter and is of no value. This leads to poor self-esteem and low self-worth.

If a child doesn’t believe that their thoughts matter, then what they think about themselves overall is going to be affected. They will not think highly of themselves or believe that what they think, say, or do is of value. This will contribute to low self-esteem long term.

Social skills will suffer because a child who comes from an authoritarian home will be trained to believe that nobody wants to hear their opinion and that relationships are based on compliance.

For example, Judy is raised in an authoritarian home. She is now 18 years old and has her first boyfriend. Anytime that he asks something of her, even if she internally disagrees, she feels that she is supposed to comply and do what he says in order for him to like her and continue wanting to be with her.

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He wants to have sex. She does not feel that she is ready, but she will not voice this to her boyfriend because she doesn’t think that her opinion will matter or that he will want to listen to what she is feeling. She goes along with sex in their relationship to be compliant. She doesn’t want to be punished by disagreeing with not having sex. He says that they are ready for that next step in the relationship and she fears that the consequence of saying no would be that he ends the relationship.

Therefore, she doesn’t even voice her thoughts or feelings on the situation because she doesn’t think they have value or will be heard anyway.

She has been taught by her parents that her opinions and feelings don’t matter. She has learned from the past 18 years with her parents that what matters most is that she is compliant. She gets along with her parents best when she is doing exactly what they want her to do. This is why she feels the need to do the same with her boyfriend.

Going along with his decisions, being compliant, and not voicing her feelings will keep the relationship going and avoid conflict or punishment. The ultimate punishment in her mind would be that he ends the relationship.

With her opinions never being valued by those who she has loved the most (her parents), she has learned that she should not voice her opinion if she wants to keep the other person in the relationship happy. In her mind, because of how she has been raised, compliance overrides all else, and her opinion is meaningless.

However, her boyfriend is not her parents. He is understanding and would want to know how she feels. He wants a long term relationship with her and he loves her so much. His true desire is for her to be happy. He would never want her to have sex if she wasn’t feeling the same way that he was feeling. He would gladly wait and would want to hear what she thinks and feels about taking their relationship to the next level.

Authoritarian parenting methods can inflict great harm on a child. The child becomes emotionally damaged because they grow up believing that their opinions, thoughts, and feelings do not matter. Instead they are taught that compliance and being obedient supersedes all else.

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The Solution

The solution is to move from authoritarian parenting methods to authoritative parenting practices.

Authoritative parenting has been deemed as the best parenting method by researchers, according to Psychology Today. Parents who use authoritative parenting methods have rules for their children, but they are not looking for blind compliance. They recognize that having a relationship with their child is of great importance and therefore valuing the child’s voice, opinions, and thoughts is important.

Authoritative parents seek to guide and direct their children, but they do not seek to control the will of their child.

Parenting Coach Plan explains the foundation of authoritative parenting as the following:[4]

Authoritative parenting can be described as a style of parenting that combines firm limits and clear boundaries with fair and consistent discipline. Authoritative parents are also nurturing, highly-involved, and willing to speak openly with their child regarding expectations and the consequences for failing to meet those expectations. Rules are enforced and fair consequences are put in place for when those rules are broken.

Children raised in authoritative homes follow the rules because they understand the “why” of the rules. They are also bonded to their parents because they are able to talk to their parents openly. This bond helps nurture a positive home environment and a two-way relationship that can last a lifetime.

To learn more about how to be an authoritative parent and how to discipline a child using this parenting method, check out my article:

How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

Reference

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