Our Rules for Parenting in the Digital Age
They say if we want to know what America will be like in five years concerning electronics, we can look to Korea. Korea currently has an Adolescent Technology Addiction problem (ATA) that they categorize as a medical condition, and it’s covered by their government. When I heard the report of this, I was amazed by what one mother said about her 15-year-old son. “He plays for seven to eight hours a day everyday, and I am afraid if something doesn’t happen, I will lose him forever.” He had been in the top of his class most of his schooling, and now, 18 months later, he is at the bottom.
The next day, I was talking with a friend who came to me for counsel on her teenage boy. This always amazes me when it happens because the verdict is still out on my own parenting skills. But she was desperate for answers. She told me how unruly and disrespectful her son was behaving. He doesn’t get enough sleep because he is texting until the wee hours of the morning. She said it has gotten worse since becoming obsessed with playing “Call of Duty.” I suggested what, to me, seemed glaringly obvious, “So why not take these things away from him? Or better yet, get rid of it?”
“Well, he paid for it, and he would be so mad at us if we did that.” She could see the wheels turning in my head and laughed because she could guess what I would say next. …
Have we all gone mad? Who runs this home? Who is in charge? Does he pay the bills? He doesn’t even buy his own underwear, for goodness sake. Since when did parents care more about being friends with their children than protecting them? I calmly said, “Seriously, isn’t your son’s soul and heart worth more than a $400 piece of equipment?”
Rules are hard to enforce, but that is what parenting is: “Parenting is to nurture and protect.” A phrase synonymous to parenting is “to create.” The antonym is to destroy. Do I want to protect my children, or do I want to see them destroy themselves? Of course we all want to see our children succeed, but are we willing to make the hardcore decisions it takes to accomplish that? I realize we can only do so much, and children will still turn out however they may turn out. But it is worth trying.
Concerning electronics, we have a few simple rules in our house:
- At 8 p.m., all electronics on deck. That means all iTouch’s, iPods, and DS’s are on the top shelf before or at 8 p.m., or you lose it for one full week.
- Nothing with a screen goes on or is used by children in the home until after 4 p.m. and all homework and chores are completed.
- All eating is done solely in the kitchen or on the deck — not in front of the TV, computer, or the like.
- Tim and I have decided that our children will not receive their own phones until they pay for their own after 18 years of age.
So far, things are going well in these areas; however, the verdict is still out on the outcome.