Parenting technologically savvy kids goes well until your son loses his favorite video game,your daughter’s cell phone falls into the toilet, or your child loses the charger. In our home, these glitches can create major meltdowns!
When my kids were in elementary school, video games problems often led to major family tension. One time, my son got so frustrated and angry at a game that he yanked it out of the game console and threw it across the room. The game disappeared. We could not find it even though we searched and searched and searched. (And that only made tensions higher.) By the time the game emerged—a year later—my son had spent months saving (and complaining) and had already replaced the game.
So then he was angry that he now had two copies of the same game. And all that wasted time!
With teenagers, our major technological battles center around losing and breaking earphones, kids kidnapping each other’s cell phones, and accidentally deleting important computer files for school projects. It’s hard to convince teenagers that backup hard drives can hold English papers and Social Study projects instead of only their massive digital music libraries.
So we negotiated new rules about technology to avoid and deal with the glitches that tried to make our family life miserable. We created a charging area that resided in the dining room. (That way our kids can’t go to bed with hand-held video games and cell phones.) We taught our kids that if their cell phone died (or disappeared), they needed to call us on a friend’s cell phone and give us the number so that we could still get a hold of them. (Although, I’ve sometimes talked to a lot of different kids as I tried to get a hold of one of my teens when he told me the number for one friend and then changed location without telling me where he went next.)
We’ve also set up automatic backup programs on the computer our teenagers’ use so that they never have to remember to backup their school projects. That’s made a huge difference, especially since we’ve used the Firewire port for this connection, which they don’t disconnect because they now only use USB ports for their iPod and other technological gadgets.
What makes these technological glitches even more painful is the fact that many of these devices are expensive. Once you drop a $350 iPod into a lake, it cannot be repaired. As a parent, it’s hard to watch a teenager suffer the loss of an iPod and also to experience how excruciating long it takes a child to earn enough money to buy a new one while fending off the pressure kids place on parents to either buy—or help buy—a replacement.
So I have mixed feelings about technological advancements as a parent. On one hand, I’m thrilled that search engines make it easier for me to get homework tips so that I can help my teenagers when they’re stuck in subjects that are way over my head. I’m happy that I—and my kids—can more easily stay connected to my dear friend in Germany and my brother in laws who live in Scotland and Sweden. But I have to admit there are days when technology makes my life difficult as a parent, such as when my kid is having a fit because the $20 ear buds that he bought four days ago now don’t work and we can’t find the packaging or the receipt. Or when the Internet goes down and my teenager is trying to finish a major research paper—and all the research is on the web.
How do you deal with technological aggravations that make your life as a parent difficult?
ParentFurther, Technology and Media
American Academy of Pediatrics, “Talking to Kids and Tweens about Social Media and Sexting,” June 1, 2009