By Tiffany Harper, LCSW, July 3, 2018 –

Parenting today’s kids can be a challenge. Most parents remember a simpler time when TV shows were wholesome, phones were attached to the wall, and social communication was conducted by writing notes (oftentimes folded creatively and passed in class).
In those “simpler times,” it seems that values were also different. Because our children are exposed to so much, both directly and indirectly, it is important to make good use of “teachable moments.”

Teachable moments happen in the course of life, unfolding more naturally than if we planned a formal, sit-down talk. Teachable moments can be applied to any situation, but one important area of focus is technology.

Parents’ responses to their teen’s use of technology tend to exist on a spectrum. There are parents who try to protect their children from as much exposure as they can. They ban their kids from social media sites, restrict and monitor television and internet usage and maybe even read all of their text messages.

This can cause strained relationships between parent and teen. On the other end of the spectrum are parents who are totally unaware of what their child watches, posts, and texts. This can send the message that parents don’t care and lead to unwanted behaviors.

There is a middle ground, however. Most TV shows have ratings, and most movies are reviewed on websites like IMDb.com. Look for tips and details on why the movie earned the rating.
When in doubt, the best way to evaluate appropriateness would be to take the time to watch the show by yourself first and then with your teen. Perhaps there is a character who is deciding whether or not to have sex, drink with friends, or skip school. That opens the door for vital discussions with your teen.

It doesn’t mean a full-blown lecture is required, but it opens a dialogue and provides an opportunity to discuss what your expectations are as a parent as well as tuning in to how your teen is forming opinions about these issues.

Social media constantly changes, so it takes some effort to be up-to-date on the popular sites and apps. Occasionally checking in with your teen about what is being posted is tricky but necessary. Some parents demand passwords to their teen’s accounts, and other parents don’t know anything about the latest apps.

Non-judgmental, open-ended questions can be asked, such as “What did you think of Susie’s tweet about her breakup?” This promotes discussion about what is appropriate to post.

It is also a good idea to educate teenagers about their digital footprint, helping them understand that once it’s “out there” future employers and colleges can make decisions about them based on what has been posted, even if it was in the distant past.

Remember that not all social media is bad and all discussion surrounding social media doesn’t have to be serious. In fact it can promote bonding, as lots of laughs can be shared over watching “You Tube” videos with your teen.

Here are some guidelines for making the most of these discussions with your teen:
• Be clear and firm about your expectations.
• Try to be non-judgmental when your teenager is expressing their views.
• Lighten up, and use humor when possible.
• Take a closer look if you have reason to be concerned about your child’s safety.
• Keep it brief. A message can be conveyed in a small amount of time. Any conversation that lingers loses effectiveness, as it tends to turn into a lecture.

By Jordan Beach, LCSW, June 26, 2018 –

We live in a high-tech world.  Today’s children have been surrounded by technology since the day they were born.

As they get older it’s often more difficult to get kids away from their electronic devices to engage in active play. While it is important for children to understand technology, that importance does not override the need to be healthy and active away from these devices.

We know that children need 60 minutes of exercise a day, but how can you get your kids moving without starting a war in your home?

Here are a few ideas that might help motivate your child:

1. Try using an activity jar. Sometimes children are indecisive. Have them help you make a list of some of their favorite cardio activities. On the days they are unmotivated (or just can’t decide) you can draw an activity out of the jar as a prompt.

2. Whenever possible, get outside! The options for physical activity are endless when playing outdoors. You don’t need to leave your own yard to have a good time running and playing. You can play a game of tag, turn on the sprinklers, have a Nerf war, or practice their favorite sport.  All of these activities can be done in a limited space with little to no equipment.

3. If you’re looking for more adventure, take your activities away from home. Take a walk as a family, and if you have a furry friend bring them along! Check out community parks nearby, and make a point to try new parks. This will keep the outings interesting for your little ones. Inviting friends along is a great way to get your kids excited about outdoor play.

4. It’s clearly not difficult to get your family moving on a nice sunny day, but what do you do if it is raining or too cold to go outside? Utilize some of the same tools your child’s teacher uses in the classroom.  Go Noodle (gonoodle.com) is a great site to get your child up and moving. This would also give your child the opportunity to show you some of their favorite “brain breaks” from school.

5. If you’re trying to get kids away from electronics, try just turning on your radio and having a family dance party. Kids love this!

There is no denying that the older our children get, the more difficult it is to get them away from technology to play like kids again. However, we also can’t diminish the importance of active play. Turning off electronics is good for our children in a multitude of ways; most importantly, it keeps them healthy.