There is no doubt that mobile phones have changed the way that we live our lives. Whilst some of these changes have definitely been for the better, many of these changes have complicated our lives. We have instant access to information, however, on the other hand, there is no escape from information or the ability to not be contactable.
The ability to be able to work anywhere in the world at anytime is a bonus for international families, however, there is then the expectation that you can be working 24 hours a day and you should always be online. Being able to send someone a question at any hour of the day is great, but this creates the precedent and pressure for an instant response.
Mobile phones have definitely changed the way that we parent. We now have greater access to our children, we can know far more about them, we can track where they are and we can be more involved in their lives. However, are these things all good for our relationship with our children? Sometimes, it can be better for our children that we do not know absolutely everything they are doing, especially when they are teenagers. Think back to some of the things which you got up to as teenagers – aren’t you glad your parents didn’t know absolutely everything you were doing?
Think about the issues in your homes which lead to arguments with your children. How many of these are mobile phone related? For example, being on your phone at the dinner table, the constant bing of new messages being received, the inability to focus on a real world conversation because of the need to check your phone, the deafness associated with playing games on your phone, the response you get when you dare to ask your child to put down their phones.
Personally, I believe that mobile phones have made parenting so much more difficult in many ways, and have provided us with more challenges than our parents had to experience. However, as a generation of parents I believe that we need to take back control of how we use mobile phones in our families. We need to establish clear and firm boundaries about our own mobile phone behaviour and be strong role models for our children in this respect. We cannot expect certain behaviours from our children which we don’t practice ourselves. As families we need to determine what the expectations about mobile phones are for each of our families.
Some suggestions are:
- No mobile phones when you are walking
- No mobiles at the dinner table
- No mobiles in bedrooms
- Negotiated mobile free times on weekends and in the evenings for the whole family
- Mobile free family activities
- Conversation/movie/games time without mobiles
- Planning family holidays when we can be off the grid
I think that we need to have some serious discussions with our children about mobile phone use and the impact it is having on our lives and our ability to communicate meaningfully and respectfully with each other.
Rather than allowing mobile phones to dictate the way we live our lives, we need to reign in our mobile phone usage and wrestle back some of this control as it will definitely be to our children’s benefit in the future.
Mark Hemphill | Head of School