Dear Auntie A,
I am the father of three girls and the technology is driving me crazy! My wife and I have implemented a rule that no phones are allowed at the dinner table, and so far our girls have complied. This rule has been met with some pushback lately, however, as their friends are allowed to use their phones at meals, and when we are at restaurants it’s very clear that other families don’t feel the same as my wife and I about sacred family time. Recently we attended a concert and one of our daughters video taped the entire thing! I don’t understand why children cannot be in the moment and feel it necessary to pull out their phones and document everything! My wife and I felt embarrassed that our daughter was not paying attention to the event, but from her perspective, she was paying attention. Do you have any advice on approaches to limiting the use of technology or a reasonable explanation that we can share with our girls to encourage their limited use of their phones when in social situations? It feels like we as parents are fighting for our children to be with us even as they are sitting right there beside us, and this feels weird.
It is WEIRD! I agree, but I’ll tell you, this generation is so cued into their tech that they actually think they are living in the moment while on their devices. I love the idea of a tech-free family dinner, and I even encourage this with a drop basket near the dining room table. I have one client that actually allows her teens to take “emergency” calls, but the privilege comes with a price: if the kids use their device during off-limit times, they earn extra chores. Brilliant! This teaches two things: they must learn to abstain from checking in, and they must navigate the consequences if they feel they absolutely must do so. As for concerts and other gatherings, I am an absolute fan of turning the phones off. A quick pic before the concert to create a memory is totally fine, but recording the entire event is a deal-breaker. What’s the chance they ever go back and watch it? It is never the same as having seen it live while paying attention and being engaged in the moment. I encourage you to continue to guide and show them how to enjoy time with you and each other in the present. As with most things in parenting, it takes consistency and patience for ideas to stick.
Alisa Murray, is an award-winning columnist and fine-art photographer.
She holds a BS in Psychology.