I just finished reading a must read article for all parents in the New York Times. Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/technology/21brain.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepage. READ IT!(after you have read this blog of course) If you have a child, even a young one this is a cautionary tale. If you can get on this technology thing early in the game you have an opportunity to develop a balanced approach to enhancing ones life with technology rather than drowning in it.
I have asked my college students to reflect back to high school and middle school and ask themselves what might have helped them stay more focused on school work? Amazingly they almost always say they wished their parents had been more strict about using computer and phones during homework time. Remember, this is a reflection, because they all did acknowledge that if their parents had been on them about it they would have been "pissed".
In this NY times article a senior in high school says that he "lacks the self-control to favor schoolwork over the computer."Another student interviewed says:"I'll be reading a book for homework, and I'll get a text message and pause my reading and put down the book, pick up the phone to reply to the text message, and then 20 minutes later realize,'Oh, I forgot to do my homework'. And lastly this students says:" Facebook is amazing because it feels like you're doing something and you're not doing anything. Its the absence of doing something, but you feel gratified anyway. My attention span is getting worse."Out of the mouths of babes, and the most honest advice you'll ever be given..heed it"
Your kids need your help. They do not have the discipline or motivation to stop drinking the kool-aid, and it will make them sick. The problem is that 3 or 4 years from now they may confront you with the question, when perhaps they aren't able to get into the college they really want, or they are disappointed with their SAT scores, and are looking for a scapegoat, watch out, cause it could very well be you. J'ACCUSE: "Why didn't you make me study more?" they will angrily assert. And you, stunned, open mouthed in complete astonishment wondered how they could have forgotten the last 4 years of fighting and arguing over doing homework.
First off, stop buying technology toys that they absolutely do not need. I was scouring parenting sites the other day looking for blog ideas and I found too many questions on these sites like: "My 11 year old wants an ITouch, should I get him that or an IPhone?" Are you on crack? I wondered. What the hell does and 11-year-old or for that matter a 16-year-old need an IPHONE for. Why would you knowingly give your kid a device that gives them unsupervised, unlimited access to the Internet. This NY times article states, "half of students form 8-18 are using Internet, watching TV, or using some other form of media either most or some of the time that they are doing homework. Remember when your parents used to say to you when you asked for a TV or phone in your room, "Just because you want something, doesn't mean your going to get it!"
I am begging you parents, don't buy them in the first place. I know black Friday is this week, and there are sales galore on IPHONES and IPADS and DROIDS and ITOUCH, and so on and so on. And I know you are imagining the glow of joy and that burst of affection from your teen when they open this gift of "I". And I know those bursts of affection might feel few and far between these days, but know that lasts only until the Monday that school starts and now you have one more thing you have to argue about for the next four years. I can hear the threats of " If you don't do your homework, if I get one more progress report with missing assignments I am taking that damn IPHONE away! (which of course we all know you won't).
If you have 5-8 graders, this is a piece of cake. Hopefully their cell phone acquisition is fairly new and you can say: "Here's the way its going to work, I get you want to stay in touch with your friends, and texting is fun, and you need to do homework, hang with the family, god forbid read a book, and there is time for it all. We need to come up with a 2 hour period when you do what you need to do, and I hold onto the phone for you. I get this will be hard for you, but if you fight me on this, and you choose to fight with me on this everyday, I will just shut the phone off until you feel ready to agree." Parents you are helping them to develop good study skills and discipline for delaying gratification. They are not born with this ability, they need to develop it over time, and if you wait till high school to do it, it will be alot harder.
For high school kids this is alot harder. But stay strong parents. Understand that your kids may already have developed some bad habits with phones, computers and gaming. Expect that the change in business as usual will cause anger, attitude and argument. For 9th 10th and 11th graders, you can use the technique stated above.When you can anticipate the anger you don't need to respond to it. A shoulder shrug and an "I know this is hard" communicates it all. Remember, kids live in the present, helping them to anticipate the future, thats your job.