Technology is ruining our kids… you may have read my post on this recently! I’ve been pretty worried about how technology is impacting our society and our homes so I’ve done a little research on good technology tips and resources for teaching our families.
You know how when you worry about something, or you’re focused on something specific, everything around you starts to relate to what you’re concentrating on? Like if you’re trying to pick out a paint color it seems that suddenly every hue of every wall you see is suddenly very interesting. If your teenager is looking for a job it seems that you’re suddenly keenly aware of “we’re hiring” possibilities everywhere you go. Maybe you’ve just read an interesting book, all of a sudden it seems that it’s brought up all around you…on a podcast, by a friend, etc.
Maybe that doesn’t happen to anyone else, but it sure does to me.
These days, I think a lot about technology and what it’s doing to my kids. And what it’s doing to me…
So everything seems to relate back to technology for some reason. I tend to blame a lot of things on technology lately, much to my daughters’ chagrin! Now, I know there are lots of positive things that come from technology. It’s glorious and wonderful in so many ways… it has so much power to change lives for the better.
But I do believe that there’s a part of it ruining our kids.
It’s mesmerizing a whole generation and their parents. I mentioned some interesting articles in my first technology post that talk about how the tech industry will do whatever it takes to keep it that way.
HOW DO WE KEEP TECHNOLOGY FROM RUINING OUR KIDS?
Last month we went out to lunch with Max’s mission president and his wife. We talked about how missions have changed since they’ve lowered the age requirement to serve. Dave and I wondered about the maturity level, whether homesickness has gone up, etc. But they mentioned the toughest thing for these newer missionaries is a lack of self-esteem. Not only that, they were more worried about the sisters than the elders.
And since I’m in that “automatically blame things on technology” mode, it made me mad at social media. At least, that’s got to be part of the culprit, right? That and parent coddling. Which I know I’m guilty of, but that’s a post for another day.
In the middle of that conversation in Taiwan, my mind was swirling around my own four girls. We want them to be confident and strong and to “look up rather than looking from side to side” for their self-esteem. This lower self-esteem is something new to this generation.
Sure, there are women throughout history who have struggled with confidence and have looked to others for validation. A lot of that is human nature. But I believe much of it centers around the perceptions that social media creates… and how it makes us feel. How has social media and different perceptions of how “perfect” life is for others affected this new generation of young women out there? Has it affected my daughters? What about me as a mother for that matter? It’s not just the youth who are affected. Seeing so many things that are posed and flawless can sure do a number to make “regular” lives seem mundane and gray.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
A couple days after our discussion, which really didn’t have anything to do with technology, it was all about missionary work and Taiwan, I was wringing my hands to Dave about social media. He reminded me that I sound like a broken record. Worrying isn’t going to get us anywhere. We need to take some action.
So what do we *do* about technology?
Around this same time I was talking to my friend on the phone about some of the depression and anxiety that surrounds us these days. It hinders many of the people we love. We talked about the connection to social media. We decided to gather some friends and have a little “book club” about The Tech-Wise Family and get together to come up with some solid solutions for dealing with technology in social media in our homes.
Please don’t be sad if you’re local and didn’t know about it. We just invited people we had spoken with specifically about technology recently. The discussion was enlightening. We went around the room and introduced ourselves. Then we talked about the ages of our kids and what kinds of things we’re dealing with in the social media realm. We talked deeper about the things that stood out to us from that book. It was incredible. We learned so much from each other.
That is a group of powerful ladies right there. And also a lot of food…ha!
But there was something so empowering about the fact that we were all so on the same page. So many of the same concerns, some solutions, some new ideas, but mostly just power in numbers.
Tech-Wise Family Book Review
The Tech-Wise Family talks about being mindful of how we use tech in our homes. It goes deeper than internet filters and screen time limits for kids. As families we have to be smart and aware and sometimes we have to make hard decisions that go against what the world seems to be pushing on us.
The world is all about having everything at your fingertips. With our phones, google, streaming we have access to anything we want without hardly any effort. It’s all about instant gratification and we are losing some of our work ethic and discipline.
If anything, after reading this book, I have determined to make sure the boundaries we have set up remain in place. It is important to protect our homes and our families. Our use of technology should reflect who we want to be as a family. I highly recommend this book to help you ask yourself the deep questions, get more aware of how technology is working (or maybe not working) in your home.
TAKE THE TECHNOLOGY TIPS THAT WORK FOR YOU
Leave the rest…
Every family is different. Each person is different. And because of that there’s no “right answer.” I love that The Tech-Wise Family made me really think through some concrete ideas to help us balance out our use of technology. It made me think about what place technology has in my life and my kids’ lives?
For my girls who are so impressionable and in such a crucial stage of growing up — do I really want them to have a phone in their hand all the time? Knowing they’ll struggle with that inner battle raging inside, often making them feel inferior or left out. Or trying to figure out ways to make themselves look “cooler” and get more “likes,” — it happens whether we want to believe it or not. Do I want them to look up and see the world around around them and have more chances to look into the eyes of those they love?
They’re most likely not going to see the big picture from the midst of all that’s swirling around them. That is, unless we help them to shut the things that don’t matter off. Then give more room for those things that do. If you read this book, please come back and share your thoughts in the comments! I’d love for you to share your technology tips with me. Don’t forget to browse the comments and get some amazing technology tips from others.
TECHNOLOGY TIPS WE USE IN OUR HOME
We’ve been working really hard as a family to come up with tips that will help us balance out the use of technology in our home. Here are a few that have worked:
Make Sure Kids are Ready
Before exposing kids to new technology, make sure they have the knowledge they need to navigate it successfully. Don’t hand them a phone without having any discussions about expectations. I talk about the best time to give kids phones in my post about How Technology is Ruining Our Kids.
One of the biggest technology tips I have for you is to create a technology contract that establishes boundaries and expectations. This should be done with love and should help keep the lines of communication open.
Use Apps to Enforce Time Limits
We’ve been using “Our Pact” (an iPhone app) like it’s our best friend. I can turn off the girls’ apps from my phone whenever I want. We’ve decided for now to keep them turned off until all jobs, practicing, etc. are done for the day. So far, so good. Why in Heaven’s name should they be distracted by their phones before all the “real” things for the day are done?
Put People First
Whenever we, as a family, are around people we put our phones away. At dinner time, we put our phones away and we engage in conversations as a family. We put people first at home and we encourage them to put people first out in the real world. When they’re out in public, we ask them to turn their phones off at lunch, put it in their pocket when they’re in the car with friends, and talk to people whenever they can. This just takes talking about. And then talking and talking again.
Kids need reminders!
This putting people first is always taught very best by example. When we put OUR KIDS first. I love this quick parenting hack my dad taught me when I was young that I still do with my kids.
Social Media Breaks
If your kids have social media, take breaks. Because I worry about social media, I wanted to conduct an experiment and decided our family would take a week break from Instagram. There are several different social media venues out there, but we chose that one. I don’t do Facebook or Snapchat.
At the end of the week, we evaluated how we felt and guess what? We were all happier. There was so much gratitude for that week off. I personally was so much more concentrated on the things that matter most and it felt so good. Which is weird because I didn’t feel like scrolling through those images really took up much time. And they actually didn’t. I’m really careful how many people I follow and it’s not a lot. But the thing that made a difference was the focus. When I had a second between carpools or in line at the grocery store I looked around and used my brain instead getting glued to a screen. At home any spare seconds were spent with my girls and Dave, or thinking of them and what they needed. I was less distracted and I was happier.
Gradually Instagram has eased it’s way back into life for them, but for me I’ve decided to take it off my phone for now and just check it out once a week or so. I’m trying to find the balance because I do love to know what’s going on out there with the people I love that I don’t get so see as much as I want. Social media is such a way of life these days, finding the balance is tricky. But there’s something about working actively to find that balance rather than just wringing my hands in worry that feels good.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
Provide opportunities to openly discuss how things are going and all kids to talk about their experiences and phone conversations so that they have autonomy to share and have ownership of their behavior.
MORE TIPS FOR TEENS
I love sharing tips that I feel will help on the journey of motherhood! Here are some of my favorite posts. I hope you’ll check them out.
- Building connections with teens and pre-teens is hard. Here are 10 tips for managing pre-teens.
- Money is another one of those concepts that I feel parents have a responsibility to teach their kids to be successful as an adult — Check out A Money System That Works for some ideas.
- We all want to have a bit more love in our home. Here are 10 Ideas to Foster Sibling Relationships.
So one thing i've wondered is how peoples' long term memory will be impacted by the usage of technology. Frequently i've been in discussions with someone and if we forget a simple fact (e.g. The name of George H.W. Bush's vice president) we will quickly check Google in lieu of searching our own minds for the answer.
Have you read this post on the subject from “Hands Free Mama”?
Wow, that is exactly along the lines of what I've been worried about, and is written up so beautifully. Thank you so much for sharing!
Check out collinkartchner on instagram. He’s basically started a movement in Utah on the dangers of smart phones for teens. He is speaking at schools and making a lot of good change.
I highly recommend you watch his stories on IG Shawni I think you’ll want to be his best friend!!!!
Another plug for Collin Kartchner. His stories have really made me think.
I've had a few people tell me about him and have checked out his feed. It would take me forever to watch all those things he posts so I haven't watched many since I'm consciously not on IG much these days, but what I've seen I want to clap my hands for because I think he is making great points and creating a great movement in the direction I really, really think we need to go. Kids don't need phones at school. I myself got caught up for a while in the fact that they did…what if they need to get a hold of me? Ha! Everyone and their dog has a phone they can borrow if they want. I get it that it's tough to find the balance in a world where everyone has their own phone, but it's ok to be different! My girls are learning that right now and we are learning a lot.
Hi Shawni! I appreciate your post and the insights you’ve shared. I want to share a decision that I’ve made and the impact it’s had in my life. As a disclaimer, I know it’s not for everyone, but it has changed my life.
A few months back, I felt like I needed to get off of Instagram (it’s the only social media I am on, and it was actually my young women in my ward who signed me up since I was working with them at the time). I found I was checking it everyday and trying to keep up with everyone and I knew I just needed to let it go. I did. Since that time, the personal revelation I have received in my life has been raining down. I am immersing myself in the scriptures, I am present with my husband and kids. I have my own “little sphere of influence” that needs my best and my full attention right now. Also, I’ve found in my quiet or spare moments I am pondering and quiet, listening for the words of peace and direction I so desperately need, instead of always being plugged in or focused on the little box in my hand.
Just my personal experience, but had to share. As always, thank you for sharing your life with all of us.
This is exactly how I've felt. The world is telling us we have to be so connected, but the real connection we need is to those little nudges of personal revelation, which get lost in the shuffle when we get so sucked into our phones.
HI! My name's Katrina, I was just too lazy to log in so an "unknown" commenter I will be!
I wanted to chime in and say that I too have deleted Instagram from my phone in an attempt to use my little bits and pieces of free time better and it has made a world of difference. When I do check it here and there, I realize that I don't feel the need that I used to to keep up with everyone I followed, rather I could just enjoy seeing updates here and there–but the difference is now I feel like I am in control of my social media usage, rather than my social media controlling me. If that makes sense.
I really appreciate your thoughts and input on technology and how it is affecting us and the generations around us–it is a topic that needs constant addressing! Thank you for sharing your insights and doing it with such grace and love.
Isn't it interesting how you can just "let go"? I feel the same way you do: it feels so empowering not to have social media controlling me right now! Now trying to share that empowerment with my girls…
I can second the “slow down on social media” bit. It has been on my mind A LOT lately – It’s a constant struggle to find a healthy balance.
Also, I wanted to chime in – I went to a movie done by Kirk Cameron called “Connect”. It deals with this very issue and it was enlightening and eye opening on many levels. He talks with different specialists about phones, social media, etc and how it is affecting this next generation. It’s scary how quickly it happens… and so many don’t see it. I have a close friend who said “ooh I trust my kids! I don’t need to look at their phones!” It made my heart break… it’s not your kids… it’s the situation you shouldn’t trust. It’s dangerous even for adults. I have littles at home, but I know one day they will want/need a phone and I want to be ready and up to date on what that looks like and what tools I can use to make that a healthy transition.
Dave sounds like my hubby – “quit worrying and talking about it and DO something!” Good on you for taking action. I’m anxious to hear about the book!!!
I've looked up that movie because I think someone mentioned it before but I can't figure out how to access it now that it's not in theaters any more. If you have any ideas on that let me know.
What has been ruined exactly? First it was books, then tv, then computers and now Instagram? Why is the world so against information?
"Ruined" is a little dramatic, but check out the above resources other readers have mentioned and maybe the worry will make more sense. Information is awesome, being connected to a screen in your hand all the time isn't…just working to find the balance.
A kid who is going to be absorbed with Porn would do it with or without a phone. The kid who is a loner will still be a loner, the kid who is popular will still be popular with access to Instagram. The kid who is a bully will just be a bully differently. First it was the idiot box/tv, then it was computers to be blamed for the downfall of society, books are still being banned and challenged. I do not understand your focus on this except to feel in control of a “potential”manageable problem.
High recommend you go look up Collin kartchner on IG and his thoughts on kids and smart phones, It was eye opening !!!
Social media is as bad a thing as it is good, it all depends on the use we make of it. I know it can be hard for a lot of people, it is for me sometimes too, because we compare to others. No good.
Comparison is the thief of Joy. I love that quote and will discuss with my girls. Thank you for this post. I personally are so frustrated by screens, technology and social media at teenager's addiction to these. I will be reading with interest what ideas everyone comes back with. Thank you for this.
Thanks for your ideas about the app and the book.
We have been trying to come up with a good balance between smart phones and social media use with our kids. Our two oldest girls (16 and 14) have phones and the oldest has instagram. The 14 year old is begging and we are trying to hold off a little longer. We've also been trying to start a phones stay upstairs rule-no phones in their rooms but so far it hasn't been enforced, they always have a reason for "needing" a phone in their room. Mostly its for music. How do you balance that with your girls and also what about friends who come over? Do they all keep their phones in the kitchen too?
I think a large part of the problem with technology is that teenagers want to be like other teenagers. They don't want to be singled out. They want all the same music and information and lingo, etc. But in order to make a shift with social media I think we have to be ok to be different. If our girls take their phones out of the kitchen (main living area) we take them away for a day. They've had some painful days without them because of that, and instead of feeling sorry for them it makes me realize we have a problem. They are too dependent on those things! So I've had to let them know quite a few times that it's great if so-and-so gets their phone all the time, "but in our family…" It's interesting how this phrase builds more confidence than breaking their hearts. There's something about being part of something bigger than themselves (a family who may do things differently from other families) seems to build rather than take away. I'm rambling…the bottom line is that conversation and discussion is the most important thing. We try to EXPLAIN…over and over and over again why they can't have their phones out of the kitchen (too easy to get swallowed up into that whole screen world…too easy to forget about the rest of life…really, the most important parts of life in my opinion). So they have real alarm clocks and have to listen to music through speakers and they survive. Sometimes just barely but they survive 🙂 I don't worry about their friends' phones since they don't really go in their bedrooms much. Everyone is going to come to a different conclusion with what rules work for their own families but for us, we feel like this is important so we enforce and follow through which is often more of an inconvenience for us as the parents than it is for them, but we feel like it will make a difference in the long-run. If you need help on the conversation part of the whole issue, I'd highly recommend that "hands free mama" article recommended by MaurLo above…very well written with great advice. We definitely don't have this all together…working on it all the time…but it feels right to put in that work as it sounds like you're doing as well. Hang in there, Mama!
I love the sentence "but in our family…". My mom often used it when I was a kid and wanted something that she didn't appreciate. She was always sticking to her own rules abd was very consequent.I have realised that all this gave me security as a kid.
Thank you for sharing Shawni!
I really appreciate this because I feel like the only mother that has not given her kids smart phones. My husband and I made the decision a while back that our kids would be allowed to get smart phones when they turn 16 BUT that they would have to buy it themselves and pay for the plan. My oldest, turning 16 this month, has told me he just wants a flip phone where he can buy minutes as he goes. Hallelujah! It helps that all of my kids attend a k-12 charter school that does NOT allow phones in the school. The phones have to stay in lockers all day and can only be used after dismissal and outside the building. The school makes the phone in the office readily available for any kids that need to call home. Not only do my kids not beg me for a device because "all their friends are using them" but when I go in and help during lunch time I see tables filled with teenagers who are TALKING TO EACH OTHER! Not one person is buried in their device. I really struggle with parents that are concerned about their kids being addicted to their phones when the parents are the ones buying and paying for the phones. I think a lot of parents are worried about their kids keeping up with other kids and being "socially accepted." If being "socially accepted" means what you've described above (low self esteem, self-harm) etc. then I will gladly pass! Thanks for recommending on that book–I look forward to reading it! maren
Can you expound in the “stay in the kitchen” comment. We were having the exact conversation you wrote all about above tonight and I would love a little insight on your kitchen idea.
I just mean that they stay in the kitchen/family room area where we all spend more of our time.
How on earth can you enforce or get the family in habits when there’s no routine in your home and you are away so much with or without one or all the kids?
I would love to hear Shawni's practical advice on this! In this busy society I think this happens quite a bit. I assume it comes down to "being" someone who has the self confidence and self control and not obssessed with their phone, instead of focusing only on habits of routine.
I'm not sure I understand the question correctly. We have had opportunities to travel but we have a lot of routine here at home, thanks to Dave, and much to the chagrin (sometimes) of our girls! 🙂 The ideas we are working to put in place are so far working so great whether we're here or gone. It's the whole idea of how to "control" social media rather than letting it "control" us.
Perhaps it’s just from the posts. Grace is at Disney. Elle is home. Claire is at practice or games all the time. You both are with Max somewhere. Dave is in China. The family went to California. In the last 90 days it just seems like you only had at least one parent and 2 kids home half that time. The calendar may show something else. It’s just an impression. It would seem Instagram would be a way to stay connected and the phone a way to stay in control of what is happening while Dave is home or you are away or a child is away. It’s not tools it’s hearts that are the problem.
What if the camera was taken away from you? Is it healthy to be constantly taking pictures of everyone instead of living in the moment with them? All because you feel the need to document every little thing that happens in your… oops… I mean their lives… which it is "their lives"…
As someone who does take a lot of pictures of the family I can tell you that it is possible to do both. You take pictures to forge memories. You take the pictures, but you also put the camera away. I'm sure she is not spending every moment of an experience wrapped up on it and missing out on the experience. She's documenting the experience. I know I make a yearbook every year with our family pictures and my kids LOVE to pull them out and look through them and laugh and talk about what we have done together. It's a real bonding experience. I also don't think it's "your" vs "their", in a family it's OUR lives.
In ALL things we can all do better and be more perfect. Just because we focus on one area of life to be better, doesn't mean we are perfect in everything else. Maybe Shawni and I could be better at putting the camera down more often. That flaw doesn't discount our efforts to improve and work on other flaws. It means at this moment in time we are focusing on improving one thing. One thing that we have judged to be the best thing to make better at this time.
Oh although I could definitely take less pictures, I'm SO grateful for the ones I have taken! Just this week Grace and I had the greatest time looking through some old ones from MY high school days actually…when I was her same age, and then Claire and I just reminisced through some others a couple nights ago when she was looking for one to send to her cousin for her birthday…we were both so happy to have those memories in our hearts, helped by the pictures to remember.
Ha! What I really came here to say was that I loved that you took a week off social media together and then talked about how each person felt afterwards. That was a good reminder for this mama on how to counsel together and give our children a voice and ownership over a problem and solution.
Thank you so much for these thoughts! My kids are still young, but as a mom I've been grappling with my own use of social media. It seems that to have a successful business these days you have to use it and use it lots (I'm an artist, so Instagram mostly)and I find myself getting caught up in views and likes and the whole bit. It is so easy to compare myself with others who are more successful or getting more likes, and when I find myself sucked into this for several days I notice I am a horrible mom. I am on my phone way too much and my self esteem goes way down. I can't imagine kids dealing with this false sense of self worth when I, a grown person, cannot. I'm in the process of making rules for myself to take advantage of this beautiful season of life with my kids with less tech, but it is oh so hard to do when the use of social media feels necessary to make an online business (and much needed money) a reality. – Amanda Clark
Okay just listened to this tall this morning. It was great and included about looking outside of yourself (and social media). https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/neil-l-andersen_a-holier-approach-to-ministering/
Okay. I promise I won't keep taking over the comment section!
So funny that my friend just sent me that exact same talk a couple days ago. You're right, it is good! Thanks for your comments!
We struggle with this daily.
Watched "Mr.Rogers & Me" it talks a lot about media, mostly t.v, but applies to all media. Intresting perspective. Glad to know many parents are also concerned.
I love that you found your way to this book! We know this tech-wise family and they and their kids are lovely and wonderful.
It is so much about being intentional with our time and attention. For us, after watching friends (including the Crouches!) and evaluating our kids' and our family's needs, we have made choices that are right for us, even when they are out of the mainstream. Enjoy the book! I will check back to see what people think!