You’ve heard it. The friend who complains about the behavior of other people’s children. I was with one of those yesterday. “Those kids spent all the time texting. We may as well have not been there.”
I asked the obvious, “What did their parents do?”
“They didn’t seem to be able to do anything much about it. I don’t think they were happy.”
I think I would understand if the kids were teenagers. Changing adolescent behaviour is for the bold and the brave. But it should never have got to this. They weren’t always teenagers. They were once small children, open to our suggestions, amenable to our standards. Small children are waiting to be shown and told what is right, what is acceptable and how to behave.
That’s why we need to be aware of the impact digital technologies and devices can have on our lives. That’s when parents must learn and understand about these technologies, so that they can set behavioural expectations.
I learned when I was a child that I could not read at the dinner table, that the television would be turned off at meal times, that I could not just leave the table when I felt like it if Aunty Dot was visiting. My parents insisted that I say hello to visitors and politely answer questions before going off to play. I knew I couldn’t go into someone else’s house and just turn on the TV. I learned all this and more because my parents taught me. I became civilised. I knew how to behave.
If we don’t teach our children “netiquette” where will they learn it?
If children sit at the table texting instead of interacting with people, don’t blame the technology. Blame the lack of behavioural expectations. Look back in time to when the child was five, six or seven and Mum and Dad failed to take the phone or the tablet away at appropriate times, when rules were never made about devices at bed time. That’s why the teenager sits in the room glued to a small screen, or won’t get up in the morning.
Grown ups must wake up! We have been caught out by the speed of the arrival of these devices. But we have no excuses any more. We can see around us what happens when we give our children a free reign to access technology whenever they feel like. It’s like giving them a lolly shop with no rules. Don’t be surprised if all they want to eat is candy bars, and don’t be surprised if they spend all their free time on their devices.