Navigating Technology With Our Kids in a Screen-Obsessed World

*Updated with Winners* Congrats to random commenters Tanya and Ami!

My oldest daughter got her first school locker at 5th grade orientation at the new middle school.  She nervously worked her combination and adjusted the books on her white locker shelf and added a mirror on the door. I’ll never forget the day four years ago—not because it was a big deal that she was growing up. Because it was. But I remember it more because of how grown up the other kids around her seemed.

The girl next to her had fake nails, hair highlights was wearing name brand clothes head-to-toe and had was going to take notes on a tablet. And at the locker below her, a girl was texting her boyfriend on her iPhone. It felt more like a scene from high school musical than the 5th grade.

little girl behind a tablet pc

I silently prayed I could keep my little girl little and we could navigate these adolescent years well. And we have so far.

When she asked for certain brands, we talked about budgets and saving and through the years she enjoyed a few. When she asked for a smart phone, we told her high school and thankfully, she hasn’t asked for fake nails or a boyfriend yet.

We recognized along the journey that some parents said yes sooner than we did and others said it later. And that’s okay. Because there’s not a perfect age or stage and we are all doing the best we can. I think it depends on what’s right for your family.

I’m not saying it was easy. It was just plain hard at times. I think my daughter must have asked for something we weren’t quite ready to give her a hundred times during those middle school years. We would remind her of our goal. The requests lessened in junior high.

That’s why surprising her a few days ago before she started high school with her own smart phone was a joy for all of us. She was shocked. But she was ready and the moment felt like victory for all of us.

Along with her phone we gave her this contract. It requires phone etiquette and usage rules and where and when it’s appropriate. We all signed it.

It’s just a matter of time before your child has the power of technology at their fingertips. Whether it’s a game system, a smart phone or a Kindle or a laptop, technology is more accessible than ever and it’s here to stay. Every parent reading this handles is differently.  It’s not a question of if, it’s a matter of when.

I love technology. It’s a huge part of my life and I certainly don’t want to rob my kids of the good things that it offers. But more than anything, I want them to understand the power it wields, the dangers that are a click away and make sure they are mature enough to handle it.

It’s a big subject that changes as fast as the next upgrade and it’s our job to not only monitor our kids, but to live by example.

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane helped us with this decision. This summer I read (and endorsed) this important book and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s like curriculum for parents in our tech-savvy and screen-obsessed world and it released this week!

In my daughter’s cell phone contract, we asked that she wait on a Facebook account until she was older, but gave permission for an Instagram account. After a couple of days, she said, “Mom, I’m going to wait on that too. I don’t think I’m quite ready for it yet.”

And I knew we’d waited long enough. She was ready.

Today, I’m giving away two copies of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World. Leave a comment if you’d like to win.

Comments

  1. 301

    Amanda says

    My boys are 6 and 1.8 months, so really are really just beggining this thing. We have pretty strict screen time limits on my oldest, but I could certainly use some more guidance. And I just love Gary Chapman’s books!

  2. 302

    Jessica Cote says

    We struggle with this at our house with our 10 and 12 year old girls. Sometimes I just want to throw all the devices out the window! I would love one of the books ;-)

  3. 306

    Kristin says

    With an 11, 9 and 6 year old, this is an issue we battle daily. It’s certainly easier with some kids than others. My 9 and 6 year old are more screen-prone than my older one, likely caused in part by me as we sit and wait at older sister’s practices, rehearsals, lessons and games. Excited to read this book! Thanks for the resource!

  4. 308

    Beck C says

    Wow, would LOVE to win that book! Our 10 year old is often requesting things that he is just too young for. Think your book eould be invaluable.

  5. 309

    says

    My oldest son just entered 5th grade this week. We are definitely a “let’s wait” family and he has a hard time accepting this.
    I could see over the summer how extra screen time made our boys irritable and well, just plain mean.
    My husband and I would love to have a chance to read this book to gain some new perspective!

    • 309.1

      Melinda Franklin says

      Tanya, I was relieved to read your comment as I have observed the same reaction in my son. Too much screen time makes him mean as well and I’ve told him so. He is a 16 y.o. so I’m still working on limits.

  6. 310

    Amanda M. says

    This sounds like a very important read! My six year old got a tablet from his grandfather for his birthday, so we are just diving into this world. A bit sooner than we expected to, I’m afraid!

    • 310.1

      Melinda Franklin says

      Oh, Amanda! Bless your heart. I think 6 is much too young and would have a big problem with a grandparent that gave such a gift without asking first! Kids that age are just not responsible enough to keep up with or take care of such an expensive gift!

  7. 311

    Christine says

    We “need” this book! Our kids are 9, almost 7 and 3 and tech items have become my nemesis. We have a love/ hate relationship with them. I love them for educational purposes but hate the chimes of “Can I play …? or Can I watch this video on Youtube?” Our oldest is a creative soul so loves art & craft tutorials. It’s difficult keeping a good balance while also keeping our sanity. Let’s not mention the added responsibility of ensuring their safety while navigating such devices.

  8. 314

    Michelle says

    We struggle with this too! After 2 weeks in school, we’re realizing our oldest (7th) is at the age where she truly needs a device to keep up with homework in school. We gave her a basic phone for safety & keeping up w/friends last year, but we wanted to wait until high school to give her a smartphone (internet access) too. Sounds like this book could give us some great advice & direction, and we have two more children (10, 6) we’d like to lead down a safe, responsible path as well.

  9. 315

    Courtney says

    I am right in this with you, and trying to appreciate technology and it’s many be rifts, while navigating it’s tremendous responsibilities well with my kids (12 and 9). I appreciate your candid experiences, and would love a copy of this book.

  10. 316

    Deannanalley says

    In desperate need of this book!!! I have a 15 year old and an 11 year old. Nude pics are being sent by snapchat to phones all over our school. Feel like the world around us is out of control and we are getting swept along. Need to know how to stop the madness!!:)

  11. 319

    Brandy L. says

    You’ve expressed my thoughts exactly regarding our children growing up around other children who seem so much older in ways I don’t want my children to be yet. Thankfully, my children are perceived by other parents as being the older acting ones based on what they aren’t doing like other kids. I’ve never heard of this book but it sounds like something I actually need to read. I struggle with letting my kids use computers/ipads/ipods, etc. because I don’t want screen obsessed children. But I think I go too far in the other direction, actually preventing them from gaining any benefits from it.

  12. 321

    Kara says

    Would love to have a copy. Heading down this road now. We have 6 kids 14 and under and so far no social media accounts or cell phones.

  13. 322

    Meagan says

    My daughter just started kindergarten and my son is two. I would love a copy of this book because I can already see an issue starting to pop up. She asked to play on my phone in the middle of church yesterday.. she saw someone else on their parent’s phone.

  14. 323

    Ann says

    Wow this sounds like a book I need to read! My boys are 14, 12 and 9 and it’s so hard when they want what their friends have and I’ve often wished there was a manual on how to know I’m making the right decisions!

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