I’ve written quite a bit regarding the hazards and concerns of social media and “screens” in the lives of our children. The concerns still exist; the addictive nature of social media on the teenage brain, the observed increase in depression and anxiety among individuals who are high users of social media, the addictive nature of gaming, the sexual objectification that is rampant on the internet, the physical health problems associated with too much screen time, and so on. However, we are not going to forego our phones or our internet. We have to learn how to manage these tools in our lives and use them to our benefit instead of our detriment. To that end, I want to highlight a couple of useful tech tools for families. These may actually make parents thankful that their kids have smart phones! At the very least, they will help parents stay more organized, informed, and empowered in their parenting.
Have you heard of the “Greenlight Card”? Its a working, real debit card for kids. The parents are the bank, and therefore you can deposit or withdraw funds from this debit card. Its all controlled by a phone app that the parents administrate and the kids also have on their phones. Using the app allows parents to structure payment to the card based on chores (there’s an in-app chore list!), a regular allowance, or however the parents decide. Parents can also set spending limits for different stores (i.e., Amazon, Gamestop), as well as set amounts for savings.
This way of paying kids for chores, or making an allowance, is so much more convenient than having a chore chart. You don’t always have your chore chart with you, but everyone usually has their phone with them. Some parents I know that use this app have been very happy with it. Their kids (early teens) also like it. It takes the guess work out of payment for chores, what chores they are expected to do, and it also helps them learn money management skills. Another aspect of Greenlight Card is that money can be removed by the parents – think consequences, disciplinary fines. This program could be a game changer for reducing conflict and increasing cooperativeness!
The second tool I recommend for parents is a website called Commensense Media (commonsensemedia.org). It is overwhelming for parents to stay informed about all the media their kids are consuming on a daily basis. This site provides balanced, informed and age-appropriate reviews of TV shows, movies, video games, phone apps, and even books. There is also a huge trove of research regarding children and media. The Common Sense organization describes itself this way: “Common Sense is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of all kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century.”
These are just two tools that parents need in their modern parenting “toolbox”. They will help parents to be informed and equipped with practical skills to guide their children through the current technological landscape.