Right now I’m reading an interesting book (with a boring title), Parenting Well in a Media Age by Gloria DeGaetano. It is stirring up so many thoughts and ideas about raising children in our day and age.
First of all, things are very different now than they were just 30 years ago. We are part of a very media centered culture and it is often how we connect ourselves to the world.
BUT.. our children are what connects us to the world.
Put down your phone, set aside a specific time to be on your computer and unplug so that you can plug into your children. There are days when I am jealous of my childless friends, but that only lasts for a minute (and usually happens when I am on Facebook) because as soon as I plug into my children, I become more connected to the world. I connect to the clouds outside; I connect to the truck drivers driving by; I connect to the neighbors who are also out on a walk.
There are many benefits to having children, but I am realizing as the world gets more are more media centered, that the biggest benefit is that kids pull us away from that corporate-created fake online world into the amazing and crazy real life world.
So what does this have to do with my biggest fear of raising children? I have absolutely no idea how to raise a child in a world dictated by media. Even the problems that teenagers are experiencing today will be obsolete. New problems haven’t even been invented yet.
It is the scariest feeling, but I think I know one solution. Plug into your kids. The more you are connected to them today, the better you will be connected tomorrow.
The New York Times recently published an article that I can’t get out of my mind. It spoke about how children who had heard more stories about their family, had an easier time dealing with conflict, trauma and other difficulties. The idea was that they had deeper roots and a stronger connection to their past and who they were.
I think the same idea transfers over to how controlled your children are by media. If they have a strong connection to their world, they will be less inclined to live in a media world.
So start today, have a “no devices at the table rule” where you put down all screens and devices while people are eating at the table. This rule applies to meals at home and meals out at a restaurant. This rule will be easy to enforce with teenagers if it is what they had when they were growing up.
Then, once you have that rule in place and it feels pretty stable, add in “Screen-Free-Saturday” or “Screen-Free-Sunday” and put down all screens for an entire day. We have tried it twice and are working towards it being a regular part of our routine (not there yet!). But it amazes me how much more plugged in to my kids and my husband I am after spending an entire day away from a screen.
So if you have the same fears about how you will deal with a teenager and social media, then start building a connection with your young child today to help weather the social media storms of tomorrow.