I've been trying to get my mind around this for a while: How do we adjust to the time and ways in which our adult children--or even younger grandchildren--spend time on multiscreens and in the digital world. Some of us are old enough to remember being concerned about our children spending too much time watching television. Now we're having an even harder time coming to terms with all the hours our grown children and their children spend on iPads, smart phones, computers, game players and electronic platforms I don't even know about. TV? They watch any show they want via YouTube or Hulu and on any device at hand--anywhere they are, anytime they want. Even if it's at your kitchen table while they are ostensibly visiting you.
Setting limits for our grown children, especially young adults still living in our homes, is hard enough. Standing by while our grandchildren twitch their thumbs over mini keyboards and stay in touch with friends when they are with us, is frustrating--even though they're just doing what come naturally. It's not personal. But it's annoying.
In a recent post on Pyschology Today, psychologist Carl Pickhardt, who writes about parenting adolescent children, picks up on the concerns he hears about the amount of time spent with and on an electronic screen--playing video games, social networking, texting, watching DVDs.
Pickhardt's perspective for parents of adolescents applies to those of us with older children and younger grandchildren. He writes that it's hard for him to tell "if the increasing amount of leisure screen time adolescents put in each week is an emerging problem or simply a social and cultural adjustment to major technological change that is here to stay. Certainly the electronic screen is a vast platform or window or stage on which young people can act out a wide variety of roles – as audience, as spectator, as creator, as player, as communicator, as networker, as shopper, as trader, as researcher, as searcher, as performer, as student, as helper, as teacher, as entertainer, to name a few. The possibilities are mind boggling. The electronic screen is now a means to so many ends."
The real concern, as he points out, is whether the electronic screen is used "more for escape from than engaging with real life experiences and responsibilities and developing real life skills," and whether "solitary screen time discourages social contact and growth, when online activity consumes more life time than offline activity."
With our adult children--especially young adults still living at home or dependent on us--we can set rules about personal interaction: Screens off at the dinner table or when we're discussing something important. With our grandchildren, it's trickier. Rules of the road are set by the parents and we can come off as interfering know-nothings if we try to change the rules when they're around us.
It's complicated. One more adjustment to a brave new world where our old rules of engagement don't apply. I'll be following up on this issue--looking for what the experts are saying about how to deal with social media etiquette and extended screen time. Stay tuned. Or at least, keep your smart phone and iPad charged up and on.