Yesterday I had a meeting with John’s teacher Mrs.B (not using her real name for privacy) at school. Mrs. B is a nice lady. It was my first time in John’s new school; I had received an invitation from the teacher to sit down and talk about John exclusively for an hour, not at a formatted parent’s meeting which is only 10 minutes for each parent.

Mrs. B told us that John has not been very committed to class although he is a smart student. John is easily distracted, and he does not bring 100% of himself to the class; although, on his report card it shows a 6 out of 8 for the course, which is not bad.

There have been a few times that I’ve heard the same comment from teachers about John. John is not focused on class, and he does not have good time management, etc.

As his mom, I have been worrying and have been trying to motivate him to be a better kid who knows what his priority is and how to be a better student who has a 100% commitment to school learning.

However, there are lots of distractions in school nowadays, and part of the reason is that Internet and electronic device usage is heavy. Students are allowed to use their own computer in class, and there are limited restrictions for them, so they can browse websites out of school. Most of the schools encourage students to work on assignments and submit them online.

I would say that this is the era that all kids have to deal with the temptation from electronic devices and the Internet. The kids usually are smart enough to escape their parent’s naïve efforts of trying to monitor their devices. That’s why there is so much software on the market which helps parents to monitor their kids’ Internet behavior and control the screen time; on the other hand, parents are tired of playing hide and seek to understand which sites their kids stay on.

In fact, it’s not the kids’ fault. There are even lots of adults who are addicted to their devices. It is said “ people spend most of their waking hours staring at screens and American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or simply interacting with media” (source here)

There have been some tragic accidents where some parents ignored their young kids and stared at their screens when accompanying them outside. A few young kids drowned and died when their parents were focusing on social media on their devices and not keeping a close eye on the youngsters.

The electronic device is a double edge sword. On the one hand, the globe will eventually become without boundaries since the Internet has no territory boundary. The culture, information, technology, entertainment, and news, etc. are shared worldwide. The world hasn’t been united like this before without the Internet. I have done lots of online training myself. If there’s no Internet I have to go out to find the course when I need the learning. However, it was tough for me to keep learning, as I was John’s only supervisor for several years while my husband stayed in China. I could do the online learning while he was  asleep at night. I have benefitted from the Internet since I started my first job. I love the collaboration, speed and efficiency in work and study because of the Internet.

However, I admit that there were some months when I was heavily addicted to social media. I had to check all the posts from my friends every day; then I felt I had completed my day. Until one day I realized that if I could reduce social media by 70-80% and switch to reading or learning, I would spend my time more wisely.

But how can kids understand how to use the Internet and devices? That requires self-control and family teamwork. I have a few ideas:

1.    Discuss the issue with the child and set a reasonable screen time every day;

2.    Ask your kid’s school and teacher to educate and direct the students how to use the Internet and devices in the right way

3.    Encourage  kids to do more group outing activities or sports or simply hanging out instead of chatting online

4.    Limit the access of websites that the child has access to; I know Disney has a product called “my circle” which is helping parents to monitor and manage a kid’s device access on a cell phone

5.    Have family outing time instead of staying at home, which will reduce the chances everyone stays by their electronic devices

6.    Use a computer in a public area at home instead of using it in the bedroom

7.    Make more friends who are more outgoing and like the outdoors instead of hanging out on the Internet

8.    Parents reduce the time on electronic devices for entertainment in front of your kid. Try to do something together such as biking, reading or watching movies.

I know it can be quite challenging for us parents and the kids to be in the era of heavy usage of the Internet but not to be dominated by it. If you have any other ideas, please feel free to leave a message.