Seminar Date: October 26, 2016

“Technology as Parent” was the topic presented by Richard B. Cohen LMFT, MAC, CCBT, CDVC at our parent seminar series. Richard shared that over the past few years he’s been witnessing a particular trend with clients: kids spending too much time with technology looking at screens, spending less time with their family and then reporting that they are bored. Richard said that the parent’s role has diminished as technology is rewiring the developing brains of today’s children. Families are growing apart as their children spend more time with their devices, and less time interacting with their parents.

Richard said that today’s teen averages 9 hours per day of screen time. This translates out to 63 hours per week. If a teen sleeps 8 hours per night that’s another 56 hours. Throw in 40 hours devoted towards school and that’s 159 of the 168 hours in a week. So there are approximately 9 hours of life each week without electronics. Quality time with their family has decreased all the ways down to 36 minutes per week which is a little more than 5 minutes of each day.

In terms of helping to bring the family back together, Richard reminded parents that they are in charge. Parents are the ones who are responsible for creating the rules of the home. Richard suggested writing down the primary values in your family. A family statement for that lists at least three things that you want to teach your kid. Richard said that often times when he asks the kid what the family’s primary values are, they aren’t the same thing the parent thinks they are teaching. Richard encouraged the parents to build their relationship with their kids by sharing who they are. “Where did you come from? What is your story? How did you get to be where you are?” Richard said kids love to hear this stuff about their parents and that it helps them to open up about themselves.

Richard also encouraged families to have technology free dinners so that the family can practice being together without electronics. Other tips included not to make promises with your children that you don’t intend to keep. Don’t make decisions out of impulsivity. If your child has a high arousal response when their device is being taken away, it’s a good indicator of technology abuse. One interesting test is to see if your child can turn in their device at a specific time. If you ask your kid to turn in the ipad after 1 hour…can they? Richard said that the behaviors you see in your child will grow over time. Whatever they get used to, they get used to and will do.

If your child loses privileges with their device, talk with them about why it happened so that everyone can be better prepared for the future if the same behaviors come back. Everything can be a teachable moment with your family and an opportunity to explain your thinking. Richard also reminded parents that the power they have is their reaction to an event. They can’t always control what their kid will do….but parents are in control of their response.