My daughter is dependent on her Blackberry!
Written by Hilary French on 21/08/2012
Q. My 14 year old daughter is extremely dependent on her Blackberry, which has a negative effect on family communications. How should I restrict her use of it without alienating her from her peers?
A. This must be a problem in many families nowadays. I have just read an article highlighting the dangers of too much ‘screen time’ and the unhealthy dependency that our children have on electronic devices. This isn’t only a problem for the young, we are all becoming more and more dependent on immediate and constant communication. We all have to deal with changes in social patterns and behaviours – deciding the acceptable parameters is the hardest bit, especially when different generations have different expectations. Friends and the world outside the home will always be more important to teenagers than their family but it is the personal and emotional strength provided by the home that gives a teenager the resilience to cope with that outside world. So, the way you deal with this has to fit in with the boundaries and guidelines for behaviour that you have already established in your home. Can you talk to your daughter? Explain your concerns and try to come to a negotiated agreement on when you will and will not use mobiles and other electronic devices in the home? Can you make mealtimes, or other ‘family’ time, sacrosanct? Does that mean turning off the radio or TV at certain times as well? When I had a similar discussion with my daughter a few years ago it did make me examine my behaviour too. For the younger generation mobile phones and other electronic devices have replaced TV, radio and newspapers. How often do we ‘access’ one of the more traditional forms of communication in the home?
A lot, if not all, of your daughter’s friends’ parents will have similar concerns – can you talk to them about agreed boundaries across families to pre-empt the inevitable ‘but everyone else is allowed to…’! Also talk to her school – her teachers will certainly be trying to make girls aware of the dangers of electronic devices and to encourage more face to face, personal interaction. Do raise it as a general concern – your daughter will not thank you if you make her feel singled out and the reason for a particular PSHE session, assembly or whatever.
Don’t try to divorce your daughter from the world in which she is growing up – it is worth trying to find a way of enabling her to embrace all that is new without losing those old-fashioned values that you hold dear and she will come to treasure. After all, it is still those basic, ‘soft’ skills that employers are desperately looking for in young people, plus, of course, the ability to write a sentence and demonstrate good levels of literacy and numeracy generally.
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