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The importance of technology to kids

Question

I don’t think you really understand how important things like cell phones and Facebook are to young people. These are not privileges like toys to be taken away when parents get upset. They are our way of keeping in contact with our friends and are just as important to us as a car is to an adult. Parents can’t protect kids forever and need to give them the freedom to learn how to use technology.

Answer

I think you’re right. Neither parents nor professionals can truly appreciate how much texting, cell phones, and social media really mean to their kids. This stuff is all so new that parents really have limited experience in how to help their kids manage this technology.

Here’s the advice I give parents. No cell phones before junior high. Monitor your child’s texting until high school. Cell phones, computers, and video games are expensive privileges whose use should be contingent upon your child’s behavior. Parents have an obligation to restrict such privileges if they are used irresponsibly or if they are detracting from kids getting good grades in school. I’d be interested in readers’ perspective on this issue.

Question

Do you think that some kids are born with bad genes and are just evil?  Some children are given everything they need and want and are raised with great parents but still turn out rotten.

Answer

Behind your question is a great deal of frustration that in spite of your extraordinary efforts, a child did not turn out as you wished. However, there is no way to answer your question. I’ve had 32 years of clinical experience with kids, some of whom behaved horribly and hurt many people. I don’t know whether to call these youngsters evil, genetically challenged, or victims of bad parenting.

Here are the three things I tell parents in my office. First, never give up on your child, regardless of how terrible the situation. Continue to make efforts to stay connected and help them. Second, don’t enable your youngster’s bad behavior. You need to let them experience the consequences of their actions, even if that means that they spend some time in juvenile detention. Finally, don’t waste your energy blaming yourself or others. Accept the reality that you cannot completely control how your child turns out.

Question

My husband and I had some serious problems when our two kids were younger and we were both bad parents. How can I make it up to them?

Answer

Stop focusing on the past and instead become parents who are loving, firm, consistent and emotionally engaged in your children’s lives. Spend time with them. Talk with them. Help out at school. Coach their sports activities. Most importantly, don’t overindulge them with things to make up for their difficult childhoods. Congratulations for making changes in your life!

Next week: Legos or Laptops?

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We have created this blog as a way to communicate key childrens' health and safety issues to parents and other child advocates. It is managed by Dayton Children's department of marketing communications. Comments can be sent to rodneyg@childrensdayton.org.

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