Parenting

Should Parents Limit How Much Time Children Spend on Tech Devices?

Balance is the most important thing when raising teenagers. They are at the point in life where they want to make their own decisions. They think they know what is best. But they really don’t. So in maintaining a peaceful household, I find compromise and balance to be essential. I’m not one for punishment, I let my teens know the parameters and hope they make the best decisions.

But decisions on tech devices are tricky. That was never an issue when I was a kid since there were none. But I did watch a lot of television. Probably too much, but I had a career in TV so I like to think all those years watching was good training. As an adult, I know I spend way too much time on tech devices and find I need to limit myself. I recently cut out Facebook and all my social media for a month. It was a breath of fresh air. After two days picking up my phone, with nothing to do on it because I had deleted all social media apps, I realized how addicted I’d become to the phone.

Soon I reflected more, read more, jotted ideas down in a journal I kept with me. I listened to podcasts when I had time to kill and then put a newspaper app on my phone and read more articles during downtime. I don’t think it would have been fair of me to limit my son’s device time if I hadn’t limited my own.

But it’s hard to tell a seventeen-year-old what they can and can’t do. So I make suggestions and hope he listens. And I knew I needed alternatives to offer him. So I brought up drawing pads for him to draw on, pulled out an old guitar, and plugged in the keyboard. I noticed as these creative outlets were in the living room; he’d pick those up instead of his phone.

Children learn by example, we all do, so I knew I needed to set my example. I recall once when my daughter was about five and I was online looking for new toys for her. She came up and said, “Mommy, I don’t want new toys. I want you to play with me.” I kind of think this still applies. They don’t really want to be online; they want us to play with them. Although they won’t admit that, try it and see what happens. You might surprise each other.

Whose Fault is it if a Child is Failing in School?

The old expression, “it takes a village” applies with our children’s education. Parents know what it takes to get into a competitive college or university. We know how hard junior year is and how challenging SAT’s and ACT’s can be. We also know from experience how valuable a college education is. So we sacrifice for years, our time, our money to provide for our children hoping they can achieve this goal and graduate from college. That’s our part.

We rely on good teachers and administrators at school to not only educate the children but to keep an eye on their academic progress. We hope they will report to the parents and work with students when they notice slipping grades or bad behavior. But, it is ultimately the child’s responsibility to maintain their grades and academic responsibilities. This is part of the maturing process and the preparation to live away from home. In college, they won’t have so many eyes on them.

In many schools, classrooms are overcrowded and students don’t get the personal attention they need. But hopefully they can find mentors in their community when they need help and guidance.

Wouldn’t it be great if our community could work with our students as well? If our kids could go to their friend’s parents if they needed help in school or with a social problem. Extracurricular teachers also play important roles, coaches and dance teachers, art teachers can be a great ears and watchful eyes on our children’s progress. Employers also have an inside look into our children. Are they arriving at work on time, handling their responsibilities, acting appropriately?

In elementary school, parents would gather for class meetings where issues surrounding the children were discussed and shared. As children got older, parents moved on from these discussions as the children wanted more privacy. The “village” model deteriorated as our children began to drive and stopped asking for help with homework.

So, whose fault is it if a student is failing in school? I’d say everyone’s fault. Children need support and eyes on them and should not fail. But if they do, they should know someone will be there for them. And hopefully they will have more than one person they can count on.

How Does It Feel To Have a Half-Empty Nest?

My oldest recently left for college and I am definitely feeling her absence. I first noticed as my son who is a high school  junior was getting ready for school. We both realized how easy the morning routine had become since he wasn’t fighting with his sister for the bathroom. And since he is sixteen, I am no longer driving carpool! Last year my mornings were very stressful getting them both out of the house and making the long drive to school with a car full of grumpy teenagers. So after eighteen years, I now have my mornings back.

My house is now cleaner. My daughter tended to spread out throughout the house with her things everywhere including in my room. She liked to make smoothies and weird concoctions in the blender and never really cleaned up properly. The dishes and laundry have sized down, as has the amount of homework help I am lending in the evenings.

I feel a shift in the house with her being gone but also an absence. It feels like something is wrong, kind of like there is a storm cloud blocking the sunshine.
But I do talk to her once a day and it’s lovely to hear her voice and to hear of her new adventures. She sends me photos of her new friends and tells me details about them. I feel really lucky that she wants to share this info with me. During her high school years, she kept a lot of her friends’ info to herself.

My husband remarked that dropping her off at college was like leaving her at Kindergarten. He wasn’t sure she was ready then and he doesn’t feel ready now. But we did leave her then and we left her last week. It’s the tough part of parenting, the knowing when to leave.

My daughter living away from home is an adjustment for all of us, but it’s not forever. It’s until Thanksgiving and maybe another trip home before then to see her brother in his school play. In the meantime, I am going to catch my breath. It’s been a fast and furious eighteen years. I remember after she was born thinking, okay now I can rest after that long pregnancy. And then the nurse handed her to me and I have not put her down since. Not until last week when I left her at college.

Round Two: Planning Ahead for College Tours With Your Second Child

I found myself in NYC this past week with my family and as I walked by New York University it dawned on me that it was time to take my sixteen-year-old on college tours. He attended all the tours with his sister two years ago, but since his interests are different from hers, he wants his own college experience.

So I quickly got online and booked a couple of college tours in the city. His sister was a good sport and attended the tours with us. She explained to him that he needed to check in with the tour director, showing demonstrated interest was important and the college starts a file for you the minute you register for the tour. I noticed her nudging him to ask questions or to pay attention when he was drifting off.

Dinner conversation that night shifted from my daughter’s college talk to his. It was kind of surreal for all of us since we had just spent the last two years talking about my daughter’s college journey. It was fun to watch him think about his future and he had some serious ideas of where he wants to attend after touring all the schools with his sister.

So even if he toured with his sister, does he need to tour the same schools again for himself? I think so since the colleges do want to see demonstrated interest. And in the case of some schools, his sister toured a different department then he would be majoring in. Does this mean we need to repeat the same college tour vacation we had two springs ago? Do we take his sister with us who will then be deep into college herself by then? All these decisions are creeping up quickly. My short answer is to take him on a tour next Spring to a city that has a bunch of schools he wanted to see that his sister didn’t. And next summer we can regroup and narrow down his choices. He needs to figure out if he wants to go to art school, theater school or a liberal arts college where he can do both art and theatre. I am hoping he won’t need to do all the auditions our friend Anne did. But thrilled we have some good art school portfolio prep from our friend Edie.

We are back home now and the first thing Jasper did was come into my room this morning and ask if he could use my computer to look up some colleges he’d been thinking about. When I picked up the computer later in the day, I noticed all the schools he had looked at were in England. Looks like we will be heading across the pond for next summer’s college tour vacation.

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