All this technology is making it harder than ever for kids to get their parents’ attention.
During one of my educational workshops, “How Much Screen Time is Too Much Screen Time?”, I asked my group of 5th to 9th graders some tough questions, eager to explore how all this screen time is affecting our kids’ lives. I asked them how much time they spent playing video games, texting their friends, watching YouTube videos. But most importantly, I asked them how they felt after spending hours playing video games, and how their moods might have changed after hours of screen time.
Their answers were seemingly honest:
“I get a bad headache after I play Minecraft for hours,” stated one girl.
“I get anxious when I find out some of my friends are hanging out and I’m not included.”
“Sometimes I can be really nasty to my mom after I’ve been playing video games,” chimed in a young man. “She blames it on the fact that I play ‘violent’ video games, but I don’t think that’s why,” he added.
One of the older boys said he routinely goes for extra help/tutoring with his teachers every day after class because he’d rather play computer games during class. “Why not just listen and learn while in class?” I asked him.
His answer? “No one really pays attention during the class, the boys play video games and the girls just chat online and shop.”
To conclude my meeting with the kids, I informed them that I would be meeting with their parents the following night to discuss the same subject. I asked, “Is there anything you want me to ask or tell them?”
One younger boy’s hand shot up. “Can you please ask my mom to please pay more attention to me and my sister and spend less time on her phone?”
You can guess how I opened the second part of the program that following evening.
Mom and dad - “Put your phone down.”
That evening, I asked parents if they were aware of their children’s activities on their devices, to which they all shook their heads and responded, “No.”
Parents, look your kids in the eyes, listen, and be present.
In that single moment you are helping your child develop a strong sense of self. Instead of leaving them feeling abandoned, you are right there with them. By being present with them, you are helping them build the confidence they need to feel secure in leaving the nest someday. Our job as parents is to raise our children to head down their own path someday, and having a strong sense of self is crucial to their development. But this demands our full attention to building strong, resilient, passionate, confident individuals. You simply cannot do that if you are always distracted by a screen.
Just yesterday during my morning walk I passed a mom and her son– the mom had her head down in her phone as they walked by. It took everything in me not to scream, “put down your phone!”
Instead I said, “Hello, how are you?” very loudly to get the mom’s attention. She looked up, said hello, and put her phone away. You’d think she knew what I was thinking.
Childhood passes in all but a moment. One minute they’re taking their first steps, the next they’re off to college, off into the world on their own. Don’t miss out on those precious years. Put your phone down.
Nancy Kislin, LCSW, MFT