Monday, April 18, 2016

Do you need to UN-PLUG your "Digital Girl"?

   More and more these days we see/hear/experience the effects of the digital world becoming the world that everyone seems to live in.  Recently I stumbled across this article from nprED  about kids having too much screen time and how they are effected by that.  This put me on a rabbit trail that eventually landed at teens and technology and specifically our daughters.  Some of the more noteworthy articles include this one by The Huffington Post, A Teen's confession also on The Huffington Post, and this one by The NY Times.  What do that all of in common?  They all say that over-using technology leades to un-happiness, loss of social understanding/cues, and general addictive/anti or digitial-only social behaviors.  But what does it mean?  It means todays kids don't understand normal social behavior and are more comfortable living their false digital lives.

     Both lads and ladies alike are affected but in much different ways.  Girls often fall more into an "over-sexed", self conscious, self-depreciating area.  Even if you have a daughter who is not really "doing the internet media thing", secluding themselves to function mainly in their own little online world is still separating them from the living, breathing, REAL LIFE world around them.

  In the article "Does Technology effect Happiness" from The NY Times they state:

"But the researchers hypothesize that heavy use of media is a contributing factor to the social challenges of girls. 
The reason, say the researchers, is that on a basic, even primitive level, girls need to experience the full pantheon of communication that comes from face-to-face contact, such as learning to read body language, and subtle facial and verbal cues..."
     As a Cotillion teacher, a mother of teenagers, a leader within our local Homeschool Community, and all around social person, I have seen more and more middle schoolers/teens/and young adults struggle with basic social adeptness.  This is NOT JUST ABOUT ANTI SOCIAL BEHAVIOR either!  In fact, many are very social, talkative and friendly but they have no idea how disconnected they are from those around them.
     I have been in many different situation with teens one on one or with their parents; I have watched and observed strangers; I have seen things within my own community where it is clear and evident that our young people value their technology more than the living, breathing, blood-pumping people around them.
     The introverts are just quiet and stay to themselves in their little digital world.  The extroverts walk around with their phones "extroverting" as fast as their teenage thumbs can type.  Regardless or personality, if you try to break into their digital bubble things can get ugly!  The eye rolling.  The Short answers.  The clear annoyance.  The way they don't break away to engage with you because they are still engaging with their technological life- they are only humoring you.

     I have talked with other mothers about this too.  I have heard their frustrations about their daughters.  Many distraught moms are siting that their daughters:

  •  "act like they just don't care"
  • "don't seem to understand that what they are saying/doing is mean spirited"
  •  "put more value on on-line things/people than their family and friends"
  •  "She thinks she is ugly because of what she saw online- I tell her she is beautiful but she doesn't believe me"
  •  "I found THIS on her phone- why would she participate in doing that!"
  • "Her only interest is what's happening digitally"
  • "She get's together with her friends but all they do is play with their phones or play video games.... They don't actually "do" anything"

     What is happening?!?!  Why are we loosing our daughters to the digitally fake world?  How can we reclaim them?


  I don't really know the answers.  What's happening is that the digital life is getting out of control.  I know that much.  I can share with you what we have done in our home and I can encourage you to go after the hearts of your daughters.

     So, confession.  I know that if anyone in my house has a "digital issue", it's me.  HA!  True story.  I do so much online between the blog and the running of the programs I do... besides the homeschooling.  So, as I have been reading these articles and talking with others I have had to do a lot of self reflection.  I need to make sure that I AM NOT setting a bad example to my children.  Okay, confession over- moving on.

     We talk all the time to our kids about "practicing when you are younger what is appropriate when you are older".  When we view technology through those terms is really changes things.  So here are some of the boundaries we have set for our home.

  • We don't do video games.  We don't have a video game consoles, or games downloaded on our computers.  Any tablet "games" we have are education and even then they are limited and mostly only used sporadically by younger kids.  My husband and I don't really have games on our phones either.  I have a bubble pop game and I think he has some disc golf game.           BUT WHY????  We don't want our kids growing up "practicing" that playing video games is a)the best use of your time and b)what you should be spending your time doing as an adult.  Want to play a game?  Go outside or play a board game.
  • As you grow older, the way you use technology does and should change.  So the most non education type game we have on our tablet is a minecraft game.  The only kids in my house who play it are my 3 youngest boys (5/7/9) and they maybe play it once or twice a week- if that.  But my older kids do not play it.  BUT WHY???  Because, it's still a game and as you get older you use technology for reasons.  How do/should adults use technology?  For education, jobs, learning, communication.  So our older kids use technology for those reasons.  
  • Cell phones.  My kids don't have them.  My oldest really needs one at this point as she has a job and is starting college but we just haven't gotten around to it because it hasn't been a need.  When she does get one, it will not be a smart phone.  Too much "freedom" too soon can through you into a mess.  I'd rather her practice good phone/texting habits without being able to turn her phone into a toy so that when she does get a smart phone, she knows how to view it and use it maturely.  
  • Social Media.  We let our kids get an email at 12 and FB at 15.  We have rules and boundaries with each.  We want to teach them how to use social media safely.  What "friends" really are and how to navigate all that with a "seat belt on".  
  • Computer time/screen time.  This has gotten so much harder as they have gotten older,  We do watch some family shows or movies one or two nights a week as a family.  The kids sometimes have movies for school that they watch. TV is not an issue.  But time on the computer can be.  Our kids use the computers for math and research.  We do a lot of research stuff.  I would say that they use technology for school work for 2-3 hours of the day.  That can include straight up research, math, tutorials, creative writing, etc.  But then in their free time, they would like to email friends, check FB, do more art, more creative writing, etc.  That's where it gets tricky to regulate.  I usually say 30-60 minutes depending on what else we did that day and what they are wanting it for.  AND WE TALK ABOUT WHY!  I am teaching them how to regulate so we need to talk about the why of it.  Also, for the most part, we don't do technology after 4 in the afternoon.  Sometimes and older kid or two needs will in the evening for 30 minutes but it is uncommon.  If they do- we try and keep it social.  Want to do an art tutorial- find another kid to do it with, that way you are not checked out.  Want to listen to a radio show and color- great but do it in the open so that your siblings can join in so that you are not being exclusive.
    H14g listening to Celctic music and doing some creative
    writing/coloring in her journal.
  • We set boundaries and we talk to them about why and we allow them some input as well.  If H14 ask to type up a poem on the computer I might say yes but then ask "for how long?  I am concerned because you wereon the computer a lot today."  this allows her to come up with her own boundary; "I think 25 minutes, then I want to print it out and do a drawing for it."  PERFECT.
  • Lead by example.  When they come to talk to me.  I set down my electronics and make eye contact.  If we are hanging out with others I put my phone away.  If I do need to use it I excuse myself and make sure that the company I am with does not feel slighted.  I only answer calls and text that are needed- everything else I ignore.  I do not sit in a public setting and check e-mail or FB, you know, "play with my phone".
      But What if the BAD HABBITS are already there???
     FIRST, re-define the boundaries and expectation for digital use... and then stick with them.  The start of breaking bad habits is always the hardest.  Find things to fill the gaps and build better habits.
    SECOND, find ways to encourage your daughter to break her bad habits and to re-train her brain to consider life.  I LOVE the book ""How to escape the digital world & enjoy reality"by Sarah Janisse Brown.  It weaves new habits into the process of breaking the bad ones in a whimsical and fun way  (pssst!!!! Mom's like this book too!).
Sample pages from "How to Escape the Digital World &
Enjoy reality" by Sarah Janisse Brown.

It challenges you to:

  • Look at who your real friends are.
  • Look for ways to bless others.
  • Discover things you like to do.
  • Find role models.
  • Being encouraging to others.
  • Doing things with others
  • Identifying your hopes/dreams/passions.

     Let us not grow accustomed to these bad habits but instead let's teach our daughters, nay, all of our children, how to have balance.  Also, I'd like to note that what works for one family may not work for another.  I'd also like to note that I realize that "MineCraft" is viewed as a highly educational program by most everyone.  For us though, it still falls into that category of "digital games".  If they want to build something, I've got sticks in the yard and legos in the house ;)
     I am now done with this post and ready to be "un-plugged" for a while.  The digital life can be a real "life sucker"!  The sun is shining and I can hear a raucous game of "For Narnia" out my windows.  Time to play ;)


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