So not sure if you watched “You can’t ask that? Kids” that aired on ABC in May (check it out on ABC iview). You must! For a laugh and also for some insight into what our children really think.
Jump to the 5:55 mark if you just want the tech and screen related part
The children on this TV show described how technology intrudes upon their relationship with their parents. So much so that this is how one girl describes it:
“Technology in a way is pretty evil because you can’t focus on a phone and a child. It’s either the phone or the child and most of the time it’s on the phone”
The common theme in the children’s responses was that their parents are on their screens too much and that they do “copy” what they see us do. As one of the boys featured in the show so eloquently puts it:
“We don’t just take your (parents) looks, we take the whole what you do, what we’ve seen you do”
The reality is that as parents or carers we are one of the most significant role models in our children’s lives. What we “do” matters. It matters a lot. I often see confusion, resentment and conflict in families when what parents do and say doesn’t match up. I've heard so many young people complain to me that their parents tell them to get off screens but they (parents) are on screens all the time.
The evidence indicates that as role models our behaviour influences almost everything for our children - like handling emotions, relating to others, food and diet, exercise, self care, alcohol use and yes, technology use (habits).
So here are my best ideas on how to be a “positive” role model for your children, particularly in the digital world:
Review your own behaviour and check if you are behaving in line with your values. We all get off track at times so let go of any guilt and just focus on resetting.
Be transparent with your children about how you are using technology, for example, “okay i'll be a few minutes on my phone as I’m paying the gas bill” or “filling in a school excursion consent form”.
Where possible set expectations that are for everyone (children and parents), for eg. no screens during meals, no screens 60 mins before sleep time.
Ensure that everyone in the family engages in “Green Time” (activities that help kids grow - outside time, moving time, mindful time, social time, unstructured time and reading time)
So we as parents will not always get it right, and that's okay. Our kids will make many mistakes and that's okay. Be kind to them and you!
Carley McGauran is a cyber safety presenter with Inform & Empower. She is a registered, practising psychologist with over 20 years experience working with families.