By NANCY STEPHANI
This year, as in years past, I am sure there were plenty of electronics and items with screens (phones, computers, iPods, televisions and more) on the holiday wish lists of children, teenagers and young adults.
What follows is my Christmas present to parents who feel challenged establishing and enforcing family rules and norms for these tools.
Provided the younger person is living in your home, you are providing the electricity and internet connection and you pay for the device, such as a phone, you have permission to:
• Limit screen time. The amount obviously varies by age and homework assignments, with the American Academy of Pediatrics suggesting some stringent limits. I suggest for older teens and young adults limiting the time to the same amount of time they spend interacting with other human beings face to face.
• I suggest no screens at mealtimes or riding in the car with parents on the way to school or events, as this is prime conversation time.
I suggest no screens after a certain curfew, such as one half-hour before bedtime.
• Parents have permission to not allow screens in sleeping areas. A central family charging location is a great idea. Laptops on the dining room table is another idea used by some parents. Being able to see what the child is seeing is important. On the other side, if you cannot engage in the onscreen activity in front of your parents, you ought not to be doing it.
• I suggest parents not get into an argument with their young person. Simply turning off the Wi-Fi at a specified time every night (perhaps 10 p.m.) is one idea some parents utilize. Several young teens I know and love have a habit of going to bed and then are found by a parent gaming on their computer in their bedroom at 1 a.m. No screens in bedrooms and no internet after 10 p.m. would solve this without continued arguments or parents feeling the need to spy.
• Parents should have access to any electronics in their home, especially if they pay for the service. If I cannot get into your phone, then you no longer have access to that phone. That means passwords for all of the devices and social media accounts. Parents may want to check history fairly regularly and review recent texts — young people have no idea of the ramifications that can occur with their communication.
• Finally, communication is what these devices are all about. My children’s cellphones were provided for MY convenience — they had better answer when I call. And the new software that allows a parent to track where the phone is located is a huge comfort to many.
Growing up is difficult. It is our job as parents to support young people in making healthy decisions. Devices are simply tools: Let’s use them to help and to grow healthy, productive and happy young people. That will make for a better world for all of us.
Stephani, coordinator of emergency services at Century Health, is a licensed independent social worker supervisor. She is on professional staff at Ohio State University at Lima. If you have a mental health question, please write to: Mental Health Moment, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay 45839.