Note From Keri Lyn ~ I just wanted to mention how thrilled I am to have Eileen guest posting this series on the blog! Eileen has been a dear friend for several years. She is an amazing mom and honestly THE very funnest person to visit Disneyland with. I love her passion for protecting our kids and families in social media and I am SO thrilled to have her sharing her expertise here weekly with all of us! Some of these topics are not the easiest, but they are definitely very timely and often eye-opening. I hope you will enjoy this series as much as I do!
This post is the sixth post in this series. Make sure to read Eileen’s other posts: How to Talk to Your Kids About Social Media, Questions to Help Start Social Media Conversations with Your Kids and Eileen’s other Smart Parenting articles here.
Smart Parenting: Paying Attention to Social Media – and Your Kids
As I teach my parenting classes and conduct seminars about parenting kids on social media, I hear stories from parents and caregivers about folks behaving badly when using their cell phones. Sometimes when I hear a story I declare it my “NEW FAVORITE!” Of course I like the story, but it usually only holds that title for a short while until it gets replaced with a new one.
Well, this story may rank as my favorite for a long time.
According to my student (let’s call her Sheila, shall we?), she was waiting for her appointment in her dentist’s office when a little boy arrived with his mom and dad. The two-to-three-year-old started playing with the office’s toys and the parents pulled out their cell phones. The child appeared occupied so they turned their attention to their screens and let him play.
After a few minutes, the little boy looked over at Sheila and they locked eyes. Then he glanced back at his parents. He saw both mom and dad engrossed in the tiny world of their cell phones.
The little boy looked back at Sheila as if to say, “Watch this!” and then climbed up on the coffee table in the waiting room. He stood up to his full height and grinned back at Sheila.
*I know! But wait! There’s more!*
The little boy peered back at his parents one more time to make sure they weren’t watching and then he—
PULLED HIS PANTS DOWN AND STARTED TO DANCE ON THE TABLE!
He moved and grooved for a short time in his underwear then he pulled up his pants, jumped off the table, and picked up the toy he held before he got on the table like nothing ever happened.
The parents didn’t move at all, their eyes never left their screens. They didn’t see anything that occurred in that room.
But Sheila saw it and the little boy knew she had.
Of course she was shocked and worked hard not to laugh. She couldn’t believe what she had just witnessed! When she told the story in class we all erupted and couldn’t hold ourselves together as she had when she observed the boy’s behavior.
In one way this story is hysterical! And then we talked about this more as a class and all realized it’s got some serious elements to it as well. At that young age, the boy knew he could get away with naughty behavior in a public place because his parents locked their attention somewhere other than on him.
What a powerful lesson for a small child to learn. If he learns this at two or three, how does this knowledge transfer to a twelve or thirteen year old? Something a lot more serious can happen at that age than dancing with pants down in a dentist’s office, that’s for certain.
I hear stories like this often, but this is the boldest demonstration of a child’s blatant awareness of how tuned out parents (or anyone) becomes when they tune in to a cell phone.
What can we learn from this little scenario?
I talk a lot about paying attention and modeling good manners when using technology in my classes and assemblies. Kids watch us as adults and learn more from our behavior than they learn from our words.
Ask yourself these important questions:
- How do I model appropriate cell phone use?
- Do I make a demonstration of putting my phone down when my child talks with me?
- When I drive do I put my cell phone on the “sorry I can’t answer, I’m driving” mode? (A lot of phones have this -check it out -and use it!)
- At night do I unplug from technology to give my brain a chance to power down along with my devices?
- Do I pay attention to my kids when they are playing, or talking, or hanging out at the dentist’s office?
- How do I see my kids behaving well -or badly- when using a cell phone? Are they learning that behavior from me?
Checking out your own behavior and modeling proper manners and use with technology goes a long way with kids. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t go far these days, and it really never did in the first place, right?
Technology opens up the world to us and we connect in ways we never could in the past. However, always remember to engage with and observe the world directly in front of you -especially when it comes to paying attention to your kids. This story proves they watch us and learn from us all the time. Make sure you do this, or you may be caught with your pants down. (I couldn’t resist!)
Keep being amazing parents and thanks for posting this, Keri Lyn!
Connect with Eileen
If you are looking to learn more about and to stay up to date on the latest social media happenings and trends, especially where kids are concerned, then I highly encourage you to follow Eileen in social media!