Tweens and Technology- Quick Takes
- The adolescent brain is a work in progress. The pre-frontal cortex is under construction until the early twenties ( The National Institutes of Health). It is responsible for impulse control, emotional regulation, cause and effect thinking, and is the rational, calming “Director” of the brain. Tweens do not have the brain maturity to make sound choices. Good kids make bad choices! Children need clear, concise limits, ongoing discussions, and regular monitoring of technology usage. Quick Take Away: Minds take time to Prime!
- Tweens are in the midst of discovering their identities, sexuality, capacity for emotional connections, and interests and passions. For many, the internet is their “go to” platform for comfort, education, and friendships. Face to face interactions, which are becoming obsolete, are so important in building relationships and communication skills, empathy, personal strength, and problem solving skills. Although technology is a part of the tween culture, and has many benefits, it should not be the dominating force in their life. Balance technology use with face to face activities. Quick Take Away: Face to Face builds Social Grace!
- Technology use should be viewed as a privilege, not a right. Privileges are earned and can be revoked. Responsible behavior earns more freedom and privilege. Quick Take Away: Think Twice or No Dice!
- Mistakes are inevitable. Use your tween’s technology indiscretions as teachable moments. Do not shame them. Educate them, correct them, and request a change in behavior. Mistakes are opportunities to learn. Quick Take Away: Non-Shaming leads to wiser Gaming!
- Consider having one day a week, perhaps Sunday, as a technology free day. Yes that is correct, no technology of any sort for one day a week. Take this time to focus on and celebrate togetherness and fun, and the unique talents and attributes of each family member. Quick Take Away: Take One for loads of Fun!
- Remember that as the parent, you have the right to confiscate devices for surprise phone/technology checks. You also have the right to have your tween’s passwords for any social networking sites or application in use. If your tween is unhappy with this idea, this is probably a good indication that he/she is not ready for the responsibility that comes with technology use. Quick Take Away: Surprise Checks, or No Tech!
- The bedroom should be a sanctuary for reflection and rest. I-Phones and computers should be prohibited in the bedroom. Remember, tweens are curious, impulsive, and limit testers. Internet connection in a tween bedroom is analogous to a child in a candy store. You would not expect a child surrounded by an assortment of delicious candy to refrain from sampling it would you? So, do not put your tween in a tempting situation in which the entire world and all of its negative images and influences are a click away. Quick Take Away: Increase the deflection enhance the reflection!
- Texting is for family and good friends. If after you get to know someone in person, you make a connection, then texting is okay. Boys and girls text for completely different reasons. In general, girls text for “process,” and boys text for “outcome. “ When a girl texts a guy, she is looking for friendship and communication. When a boy texts a girl, he may have a certain outcome in mind. A good rule of thumb here is, if you are going to text someone of the opposite sex, they need to be your dinner guests first (mom and dad need to meet this person face to face)! If for whatever reason this is not possible, texting this person should not be possible either! Think about it. Quick Take Away: No Meal, No Deal!
- Just because an “Application” is available, and everyone else is using it, does not mean your tween should be using it. Before considering the use of an app, ask yourself:
- Is the application necessary?
- What function does the application serve?
- What need does the application serve and can I meet this need in another way? Needing an application and wanting an application are two separate issues. Quick Take Away: Inquire before you Acquire!
- Teach your tween “netiquette” and how to respond to peer pressure online. No put-downs, anonymity, or vulgarity. Teach tweens that they need to delete, or not respond to any and all inappropriate texts or messages. Be very specific on what “inappropriate” means to your family. Lastly, create an environment in which your tween feels safe to share confusing or uncomfortable messages with you. Safety online and offline are of utmost importance to the development of a healthy tween. Quick Take Away: Be Kind, Online, Not Blind !
- The average boy sees internet pornography by the age of 11 ( Barker, Teresa, 2013. The big disconnect: protecting childhood and family relationships in the digital age.). Children are being exposed to violent pornography in which women are being objectified, abused, and disregarded. Pornography is extremely dangerous to the developing tween mind. The content is arousing, confusing, overwhelming, and most of all, sets the stage for a sexual addiction ( Barker, Teresa, 2013. The big disconnect: protecting childhood and family relationships in the digital age.). Remember, the pre-frontal cortex finishes developing in the early twenties. It is this part of the brain that can truly decipher between reality and fantasy, right and wrong, cause and effect. Tweens desperately need to process this sexual misinformation with a trusting, non-shaming parent, or the online culture of “friends” will continue to provide your child with sex education. Talk to your children early about Sexuality and have ongoing conversations about what they are viewing on the internet and all of media. Consider reading, From Diapers to Dating, A Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children By, Debra W. Haffner. Quick Take Away: Provide Sex Ed. or have your Kids Mislead!
- Lastly, model moderate technology use for your children. They have been watching your every action from day one, and will continue to learn from your behaviors and choices. When you are with them, just be with them. Texting, checking email. . ., while conversing with your child sends a mixed message. In this busy, fast past society in which parents are spread very thin, your child is competing with many obstacles for your attention. Technology use does not have to be one of these obstacles! Demonstrate through your own actions that technology is a helpful, fun tool that can add so much to your life, but, does not substitute for meaningful eye to eye contact and relationships- technology is not your life! Be present with your children and be mindful of the risks of multi-tasking parenting with “teching.”
And, have on ongoing dialogue regarding moderation and technology use. Quick Take Away: Model from the Bottle!
Julie Ayn Discenza, M.Ed., M.S., LMFT