I don’t know about you, but I’m in a constant state of conflict about my kids’ technology use.
On the one hand, everyone in my household is clearly addicted to their devices, and it can be disturbing at times. Just yesterday I came into the dining room, and my husband and two sons were sitting at the table, eating, glued to their screens, all with headphones on so they couldn’t even hear me when I asked a question.
It was one of those thrown-together, middle-of-the-week dinners, so I wasn’t excepting my family to be doing too much socializing. But this was totally absurd and seemed like the perfect illustration of how zombified the entire world has gotten since personal hand-held screens were invented.
At the same time, you can’t really get away from technology these days—and there are some amazing things that happen with their usage. Not only do my kids use their phones and iPads to zone out watching videos and playing video games, but they use them to chat with their friends (no one talks on the phone these days!), complete homework assignments, and learn about prime numbers and the solar system (well, at least my nerdy kids do).
Their teachers tell me that learning to code (which my kids also use their screens for) and becoming technologically proficient is the future of our world. Tech is where all the jobs are, they tell me. Anytime I try to pry my son’s phone out of his hands, he’ll go to town with that argument, telling me that he’s going to get rich as a computer programmer someday, so I should really just relax. Sigh.
All of this is why I was so excited the other day when I came across a post on Facebook that offered some really concrete advice about how to put a more positive spin on tech use for our kids—and offered tips for making their technology use more intentional and practical. It’s totally refreshing and packed with really good ideas (which I’m definitely stealing!).
The post was written by Melissa Griffin, a Human Resources Director from San Antonio, TX and mom of three: two boys (aged 15 and 11) and a girl who is six. Griffin tells Scary Mommy that she was inspired to write this post in response to many of her friends and fellow parents who have struggled with their kids’ technology use.
“I’m a member of many parenting groups where I notice parents are giving their kids smart phones and laptops earlier and earlier,” said Griffin. “It’s often not long before these same parents are in the group lamenting that they’ve basically lost their kids to these devices.”
Ummm…I can definitely relate to that.
“I wanted to offer some practical ways for parents to use these devices to connect with their kids,” she added. “It’s up to us to help our kids use technology not just to consume, but also to create and to contribute to the family.”
As part of Griffin’s job, she often hires young adults, and her post is partly a response to what she sees as some of the difficulties these young people are encountering. In a nutshell, they may know the basics about how to operate their phones and computers, but they have very few practical skills.
“We hire so many young 20’s who are downright addicted to their phones yet don’t know the absolute basics of using technology and struggle with making and receiving phone calls,” Griffin wrote. “The anxiety levels these ‘kids’ (new hires) face when they encounter even small amounts of conflict or gray areas on a customer call can be debilitating for so many of them.”
Yup. I know I have a few years left before my kiddos venture out into the work world, but I can also say that I am sure I have not done enough to prepare them for something as basic as making a phone call (and no, I don’t mean a FaceTime call). It seems kind of bonkers to say it, but I know I’m not the only parent out there who has not taught this skill to their kids.
I’ve rationalized it to myself thinking my kids don’t need to know how to do it now—after all, there’s texting and emailing. But I see Griffin’s point that when they get older—and definitely when they enter the work force—that’s a practical skill they will need to know.
Griffin goes on to share a whole bunch of simple and smart things you can do with your kids—with technology—to teach them the basic adulting skills they will need when they leave the nest.
My favorites include having them call tech support for you the next time your internet goes down (my kids are way better at this shit than I am and actually enjoy it); making them do online grocery shopping for you during their summer breaks (genius); and calling to make their own haircuts, doctor, and dentist appointments (yes, please).
Clearly, Griffin’s post has had an impact on parents all over. Her post has been shared on Facebook 87K times since it was first posted and parents all over are thanking her for sharing her inside perspective on some of the tech skills that kids will need when they grow up.
Griffin tells Scary Mommy that the response to her post has been amazing and gratifying, and that people who have read her post are actually trying some of her tips, with success.
“The response to the post has been incredible,” she said. “I’m hearing stories of kids helping around the house more, taking ownership of researching purchases, ordering groceries, and signing themselves up for school events.”
That. Is. Awesome.
Her list is so good. I am definitely printing in out and making a point of tackling some of these things with my kids over the next few years. And I’m going to try to take the perspective that technology use isn’t “good” or “bad,” but it’s all about how you use it.
Oh, and my kids are going to learn how to talk on the phone if it’s the last damn thing I do.