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Annemarie Lange is a licensed professional counselor in the Philadelphia area that utilizes mindfulness and meditation to help her clients deal with a variety of challenges.
May 28, 2018
“Unplugged parenting” is a parenting term coined in response to the ever-growing presence of technology in our world. There’s a good bit of information out there regarding the importance of balancing our kids’ “online” connections and “real life” connections. We talk with them on the potential dangers of an online addiction and how we want them to have positive and interpersonal relationships with their family members, peers, and teachers.
Who are our kids’ first teachers? Their parents. Who are our kids’ first role models? Their parents. Who sets the first and ongoing example for our kids - good or bad? You guessed it, their parents! So why do we sometimes hold ourselves to a different expectation than our children? Do all those studies of the negative impact of excessive screen time use only apply to children? We’re much too smart of a society and too invested in the wellbeing of our families, I think, for that to be true.
Parents now, more than ever, are juggling so many things in a day. Between the family responsibilities in the house, the children, work responsibilities and trying to squeeze in some leisure time too, there often feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Technology has created a new solution for this problem. At-home access on the laptop has helped with a more flexible working environment. Mobile apps have made it possible to do banking, grocery shopping and scheduling from essentially anywhere as long as you have your smartphone with you. In these ways, technology has made it possible to being closer to answering that questions many parents ask - How can I be in more than one place at a single time?!
So, just as we ask our children, we must ask ourselves, where is the balance?
Smartphones and tablets have blurred a boundary between work and family life. While it’s convenient to be able to work from home occasionally, we must recognize when that boundary has been crossed. Our children also have very busy lives with school and extracurricular activities. They look to us to set a healthy example of how to balance pressures coming from different angles.
A recent study by the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics addressed this idea of blurred lines. One of the child behavioral experts, Jenny Radesky M.D., stated
"It's much harder to toggle between mom or dad brain and other aspects of life because the boundaries have all blurred together. We wanted to understand how this was affecting parents emotionally. We found that parents are struggling to balance family time and the desire to be present at home with technology-based expectations like responding to work and other demands."
Their results suggest the type of material a parent is viewing at home significantly influences family interactions and can make it more challenging to be present at home. Furthermore, they found parents to be feeling exhausted and overwhelmed more with increased use of technology in conjunction with parenting.
Consider these few tips when looking at your own use of technology and how it relates to your parenting:
Just because you can be on your laptop for hours at home, doesn’t mean you should. If you need to work from home, hold yourself accountable to setting a start and end time and stick to those as best you can.
Once you start tracking, most parents are surprised to learn the number of hours they’re on their devices. Knowledge is key here - once you know, you can make adjustments. Programs like Net Nanny can help for your own accountability.
Know your patterns. What is most distracting to you on your phone or your laptop. For example, if you need to check email in the evening, set designated times to do that instead of having your laptop open for hours at a time.
Remember you were their first role model and you continue to be someone your child looks up to.