Does my child have a problem?

In the digital age parents face challenges that no earlier generations faced. Digital media has been so helpful to us, absolutely essential to our modern lives, and, seemingly benign. But parents who are struggling to manage tech use in their families know just how difficult the task is.

So, why bother?

Because there are challenges that children must experience and master in order for their development to be normal and healthy. If they do not master these tasks, their whole future is likely to be negatively impacted. Starting from birth they need loving attention, consistent boundaries, contact with nature, lots of movement, and opportunity to interact socially.

What do you think happens if children and their care-givers are interacting with digital devices rather than with one another and the environment? Think about a nursing mother who loves her child but uses nursing time as an opportunity to check her Facebook page on her smart phone. No eye contact, because she’s not looking at her baby, means that this first, crucial opportunity to bond is not going well, potentially leading to anxiety in the infant.

What happens if an elementary-age child in first grade, say, spends all her/his spare time playing video games instead of playing with other kids at games that aren’t digital? Can you see how his or her social skills might be detrimentally impacted, leading to social anxiety and social avoidance?

These are just a few examples of the many ways that digital media can hijack a child’s development.

Digital media is not the enemy. If used appropriately, it enhances all of our lives. But knowing what is appropriate for a child’s age and stage of development is important. And getting guidance as you, the parents, figure out how to make the home a digitally healthy environment is essential. There are several excellent books that discuss these matters, among them Reset Your Child’s Brain: a Four Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen Time (Victoria Dunckley, 2015); Virtual Child: The Terrifying Truth about What Technology is doing to Our Children (Cris Rowan, 2010), and Video Games and Your Kids: How Parents Stay in Control (Hilarie Cash and Kim McDaniel, 2018).

And, if your family needs professional help, you can find that help here, with the therapists who are trained by IITAP. Written by: Hilarie Cash, LMHC, CSAT Candidate

Technology Safety

 

In today’s world, kids are online almost constantly, potentially exposed to all sorts of inappropriate content and contacts. One relatively effective way to protect them is to install “parental control” software on their devices. DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT TELLING THEM. Your kids will realize you’ve done it, and your unilateral decision will create a huge resentment. As such, it is best to tell kids in advance that you are going to install protective software – not because you want to spy on them, but because you want to protect them. You might also explain that as long as they aren’t trying to access inappropriate content or talk to someone who might be dangerous, the software does nothing at all.Sometimes you can get kids “on board” by giving them input when selecting the level of filtering/blocking and accountability/parental notification. Usually, when kids feel they’ve had a say in the matter, protective measures are much better received.When shopping for protective software, you should consider the following:

Customizable Filtering and Blocking. Nearly all protective software products have preset filtering levels – ranging from levels appropriate for young children to young adults. The better ones offer customizable filtering, with blacklisting of specific sites/apps that would otherwise be
allowed and whitelisting of specific sites/apps that would otherwise be blocked. Secondary Filtering and Blocking Features. In addition to website filtering and blocking, most products offer several secondary features, including:

  • Online search filtering and blocking
  • App blocking
  • Social media blocking
  • Instant message/chat blocking
  • File transfer blocking (preventing the sending and/or receiving of pictures, videos, and other large data files)
  • Video game filtering
  • Profanity blocking

Recording and Reporting (Accountability) Features. Ideally, protective software products monitor your child’s online activity and provide you with usage reports (either regularly scheduled or on demand), along with real-time alerts if/when your child uses (or attempts to use) his or her digital device in a prohibited way. Recording and reporting features may include:

  • Websites visited
  • Online searches
  • Social networking
  • Usernames and passwords
  • IM/chat
  • Email
  • Screenshot playback

Ease of Use. The software should be easy to install and to customize. Ideally, you should be able to globally configure the software, establishing settings on all of your kids’ devices simultaneously instead of dealing with each machine individually. The best products offer free
tech support via email, phone, and even live chat. Compatibility. Not all products work on every digital device. In fact, many are quite limited (and therefore not recommended for kids, who usually have a wide array of devices on which they can access the Internet and/or interact with others). It is important to make sure a product works on all of your children’s device(s) before you purchase it. It is also important to see how many devices the license covers. Ideally, you want to cover all of your children’s digital equipment with only one license. Generally speaking, Net Nanny is the most useful product for protecting kids. It’s relatively affordable, usable on pretty much any device, and it works. (There are sectarian solutions for people seeking them,
such as Guard Your Eyes for Jews and Covenant Eyes for Christians.) It is important to note that no parental control software is infallible. The simple truth is most kids can find a way around even the best of these products if they really want to. As such, these products should not be looked at as enforcers of your will. Instead, they should be considered tools of effective parenting, best used in conjunction with an ongoing series of honest, open-minded, nonjudgmental conversations about the healthy use of digital technology.

Parenting

Parenting in the Digital Age

This afternoon my daughter finished her first round of exams as a middle school student. To mark the event, the of the end of the semester, and the beginning of the holiday break, a bunch of us moms and our children went to lunch together. Our conversations quickly turned from how the semester went to holidays, gifts, and who asked for what technology for Christmas. This discussion then went to issues we parents face in the new technological frontier with our children – and the issues they face in their social worlds in the face of social media.

Our school community is lucky to have enough resources that our children’s
education includes using the latest and greatest technology. Inherent in using that technology comes risks associated with technological devices and the worldwide web. As a mom who is a therapist and Certified Sex Addiction
Therapist (CSAT) credentialed through IITAP, I often get asked to speak on the subject of kids and technology. Since 1999 I have been passionate about this cause as I was working with substance abusing adolescents overseas at our American European Air Force Headquarters in Ramstein, Germany. At that time I had a child on my caseload unknowingly solicited into an Internet sex ring. I became keenly aware that there was danger on the net and children need education and protection. I have been sounding the alarm to parents and clinicians ever since!

Would you let a stranger come into your home and talk to your child without your knowledge? Would you let a child walk into the “Red Light District” of
Amsterdam? Alone? While I believe sound parents would answer a resounding
“no” to these questions, this is the net effect of children left unstructured, unprotected, and uneducated about the dangers that they could face on the internet.

In today’s technologically fast paced world, often a child’s first “sexual
experience” is going to be stumbled upon with a technological interface. Parents are often overwhelmed and feel like they don’t understand what their kids are doing with technology. Children are often more savvy than their parents with regard to technology. They know they are better than you. If they are better, how can you protect them? You can’t protect them online if they are smarter than you are. They are more comfortable with devices than you are.

They need you to take more ownership. They need you to help to protect them.

As a parent and marriage and family therapist, I ask clients to think about their values. If children are younger, they need protection and boundaries set for them in the way of technology firewalls. As they age, they need conversation and dialogue with parents about what makes good choices. Parents will do better if they know how they feel about their own values and then be better able to communicate them to their children. Do you model what expect for your child?

If there are rules regarding “no technology at the table” – do you model that? An FBI agent recently spoke at my daughter’s school. I could not agree with him more that – it is not IF there will be an incident that your child will be exposed to on the Internet that might be unsavory or dangerous – it is a matter of WHEN.

For this reason, it is suggested that technology and kid’s use of devices need to be in a public area of the home. While not fool-proof, risk of dangerous behaviors are significantly decreased with just this simple expectation for technology use in the home.

Parents need to know where there kids are and what they are doing – in person and online. They need to keep communication lines open and they need to become educated on what is “out there” in terms of places, apps, and social media that their children are involved with.

If you are unsure about how to open those dialogues and communication,
therapists who are specifically trained can be of help. Certified Sex Addiction Therapists have unique credentialing that can be helpful in negotiating these conversations. (www.IITAP.com)

Children and Teens

Childrens and Teens

 

In the digital age parents face challenges that no earlier generations faced. Digital media has been so helpful to us, absolutely essential to our modern lives, and, seemingly benign. But parents who are struggling to manage tech use in their families know just how difficult the task
is.

So, why bother?

Because there are challenges that children must experience and master in order for their development to be normal and healthy. If they do not master these tasks, their whole future is likely to be negatively impacted. Starting from birth they need loving attention, consistent boundaries, contact with nature, lots of movement, and opportunity to interact socially.

What do you think happens if children and their care-givers are interacting with digital devices rather than with one another and the environment? Think about a nursing mother who loves her child but uses nursing time as an opportunity to check her Facebook page on her smart phone. No eye contact, because she’s not looking at her baby, means that this first, crucial opportunity to bond is not going well, potentially leading to anxiety in the infant.

What happens if an elementary-age child in first grade, say, spends all her/his spare time playing video games instead of playing with other kids at games that aren’t digital? Can you see how his or her social skills might be detrimentally impacted, leading to social anxiety and social
avoidance?

These are just a few examples of the many ways that digital media can hijack a child’s development.

Digital media is not the enemy. If used appropriately, it enhances all of our lives. But knowing what is appropriate for a child’s age and stage of development is important. And getting guidance as you, the parents, figure out how to make the home a digitally healthy environment is essential. There are several excellent books that discuss these matters, among them Reset
Your Child’s Brain: a Four Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen Time (Victoria Dunckley, 2015); Virtual Child: The Terrifying Truth about What Technology is doing to Our Children (Cris Rowan, 2010), and Video
Games and Your Kids: How Parents Stay in Control (Hilarie Cash and Kim McDaniel, 2018).

And, if your family needs professional help, you can find that help here, with the therapists who are trained by IITAP and show their certifications in behavioral addictions with the initials CSAT and CMAT.

How to talk to your children

In today’s technologically, fast-paced world, often, a child’s first “sexual experience” is going to be stumbled upon with a technological interface. Parents are often overwhelmed and feel like they don’t understand what their kids are doing with technology. Children are often more savvy than their parents with regard to technology. They know they are better than you. If they are better, how can you protect them? You can’t protect them online if they are smarter than you are. They are more comfortable with devices than you are.

They need you to take more ownership. They need you to help to protect them.

As a parent and marriage and family therapist, I ask clients to think about their values. If children are younger, they need protection and boundaries set for them in the way of technology firewalls. As they age, they need conversation and dialogue with parents about what makes good choices. Parents will do better if they know how they feel about their own values and then be better able to communicate them to their children. Do you model what expect for your child? If there are rules regarding “no technology at the table” – do you model that? An FBI agent recently spoke at my daughter’s school. I could not agree with him more that – it is not IF there will be an incident that your child will be exposed to on the Internet that might be unsavory or dangerous – it is a matter of WHEN.

For this reason, it is suggested that technology and kid’s use of devices need to be in a public area of the home. While not fool-proof, risk of dangerous behaviors are significantly decreased with just this simple expectation for technology use in the home.

Parents need to know where there kids are and what they are doing – in person and online. They need to keep communication lines open and they need to become educated on what is “out there” in terms of places, apps, and social media that their children are involved with.

If you are unsure about how to open those dialogues and communication, therapists who are specifically trained can be of help. Certified Sex Addiction Therapists have unique credentialing that can be helpful in negotiating these conversations. Written by: Nina Laltrello, LMFT, CMAT & CSAT Supervisor