Finding Balance: Children and Technology, Growth, and Wellbeing

Finding Balance: Children and Technology, Growth, and Wellbeing

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We are facing a pandemic of poor mental health in our teen population. Here's how you can support your teens through the Digital Age.

All parents question how to navigate the line between protecting their children and giving them autonomy. We want our kids to be safe, but we also want them to learn how to manage life for themselves.

Most of us grew up with autonomy baked into our childhood. My mother would tell me to get out of our Washington, D.C. house and I would ride my bike around the neighborhood with friends only returning when it got dark. At age 11, my friend and I were taking the bus 40 minutes to the Air and Space Museum. We’d spend our bus fare on concessions and ask adult commuters for change to get home.

Mom didn’t love that part of my adventure, but she didn’t let it stop me from stepping into my independence. She armed me with our home phone number, drilled me not to go anywhere with strangers, and ensured I knew what to do if something didn’t feel right with an adult.

I find myself a more hesitant parent. I can’t imagine letting an 11-year-old take off downtown with a friend, even with cell phones. Kids today lack the untethered freedom we had as children—and I believe the confidence and self-awareness that grew from that.

Ironically, while most parents fear what the world might do to our children, just about every child has unfettered access to a harmful and predatory world on the internet.

We can’t restrict every device our children might access, and despite locks and restrictions, adolescents find ways to still use their devices. With one click, they can enter a world of violence, pornography, and, even worse, abduction and trafficking.

Most parents don’t want to confront this reality, wanting to believe the warnings are overstated and that their children will know right from wrong and have the wisdom to safely manage technology.

But we are facing a veritable pandemic of unhealthy mental wellbeing for our youth. The state of adolescent mental health is the worst ever in recorded history. And, the steep decline correlates exactly with their increased use of “smart” technology.

There is no easy way to face this problem. I interviewed experts in neurobiology, mindfulness, child development, and technology. Here is what I found.

  • If you feel lost, you are not alone. No society has faced this challenge before. We parents are being asked to concurrently learn and lead.

  • We need to understand and educate our kids about how the highly-sophisticated psychological and neurological algorithms of technology marketing plug into our base fears and desires.

  • It’s imperative that we create a safe haven in our homes for real, and keep open conversation about what is happening in our kids’ worlds.

  • We must arm our children with the tools to understand what they are facing and the agency to navigate it. Those tools include self-awareness practices like asking: How does it make you feel? What do you feel like after you have been online?

  • It’s crucial to set boundaries like restrictions on devices, with ample open conversation about why.

If you are curious to learn more, at the upcoming Parenting Teens in Uncertain Times Summit, we will have leading experts providing insights into how to manage technology for your family.

Sponsored by: Parenting Teens in Uncertain Times Summit

On November 1-5, 2023, join thousands of parents and caregivers from around the globe who are joining together to learn, grow, and be the best parents and caregivers we can be.

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