by Gretchen Boehm, MS, LPC, NCC
That time of year is upon us again! “That time,” where families get to enjoy each other. “That time,” where sharing brings joy and warmth. “That time,” where we all feel whole once again and re-charge our emotional batteries.
Does it really work this way?
In a perfect world…maybe. However, the holiday time I am accustomed to includes stress, unwelcomed hustle and bustle, and the paradox of no relaxation on vacation time. I’m sure some of you can relate to this recipe. Despite this holiday blend of blunders, with a few added ingredients, we can take the bitterness out of the mix. If we can learn to take this all in stride, perhaps it is possible that we can aspire to, “That Time of Year.” I think I may have the solution summarized in one word, BOUNDARIES.
Children, Families and Adolescents are always in need of clear boundaries. In light of the holiday season, I believe it is imperative to set clear and realistic boundaries to secure healthy relationships with the people who surround you. If we know our limits and are willing to advocate our needs with others, we can master this task. Specifically speaking to my family oriented audience, boundaries should be a pre-requisite to any holiday gift, especially technology. Let’s face it, we live in a world of fast-paced electronically driven communication and play. Where if we ‘connect’, socially we grow and develop beyond anyone’s imaginable expectations.
The irony is the DISconnect that occurs when boundaries are not enforced around computers, tablets, and mobile cell phones. The family unit seems to dissipate at its core and malfunction under these circumstances. It is the caregiver’s responsibility to model and enforce rules around this issue. The need to strengthen boundaries around technology rests in the fact that the majority of 12-17 year-olds today own mobile cell phones. Furthermore, if not properly supervised or monitored, they choose to text, use social media, and browse the internet inappropriately and at undesired times (after bed time and in school). If we are going to take that journey and aspire to “That Time of Year,” here’s the first step: RULES.
- Supervision and Monitoring of all Technology: Remember, the usage of technology is a privilege, not a necessity. I encourage caregivers to have access to all accounts a child is involved with (social media, e-mail). Caregivers should have the passwords to all accounts and explain to their children that monitoring will take place. Also, think about where you would like to limit the use of technology in the home. Permitting the use of technology in the company of adults is best. This way you can check up on what your child is doing intermittently and it could limit the possibility of making poor choices.
- Power Down: Caregivers should model this action for their children. In other words, technology should have a curfew. Choose a time that is appropriate for all family members to turn in their devices to caregivers for recharging. This will eliminate inappropriate use of technology and support a good evening and morning routine in the home.
- Educate Yourself About Social Media: Take the time and learn to navigate the social media sites of your child’s interest. Better yet, have them be your teacher and set up an account for you together. Your children can be the best guides with this process. Make sure that you are connected through each site to ensure proper supervision.
- Tune –In to Each Other: As adults, we are guilty of becoming absorbed in our technology. Take advantage of the power down mode and create new family rituals at this time that support and cultivate positive healthy relationships with each other.
- Consequences and Rewards: Create clear consequences and rewards when rules are followed and broken. Make sure the consequences and rewards are age-appropriate and realistic. Be consistent with this process and you can successfully shape undesirable behavior.
Usually, network providers offer alternative ways caregivers can monitor their children on their devices. Some examples of available plans are: Sprint Guardian, Verizon Family Safeguards and Controls, and AT&T Smart Limits. Contact your provider to discover what tools are available for you in protecting your Family. This year, make an effort to create appropriate boundaries around the technology you provide to your family. Who knows… you just may achieve a Happy Holiday in the process. After all, it is “That Time of Year.”