If you’re in charge of making this year’s family Thanksgiving one to remember, a potential recipe for disaster is insisting everyone go “cold turkey” using their handheld devices.
No, teenagers shouldn’t be sending Snapchats when grandma asks them repeatedly to pass the cranberry sauce. Be in the moment, kids!
While some traditions are bound to change right along with our changing world, sudden rule changes surrounding kids and technology can lead to arguments that are less than festive.
We also know from research – and firsthand experience through our work at Centerstone – that there are healthy reasons to stay plugged-in as the holidays take off.
No longer are the days when family members can’t see each other over the holiday. Thanks to Skype and FaceTime it’s easy for that distance to dissolve; now, you can just dial-up Aunt Sally and send her around the table.
Is your college student staying on campus to study for upcoming exams? Place an iPad where they usually sit and let them join the warm conversation.
This technology is revolutionizing connectivity in general: Parents on business trips don’t have to miss their child’s ball games or bedtime story routines, and grandparents can virtually attend weddings instead of having to travel long distances.
Remember, though, when used in moderation, technology can boost social connection, especially for those who may be isolated during the holidays.
By maintaining closer relationships, research shows we feel better physically (longer lifespan) and emotionally (less depressed).
Studies show that kids are more comfortable communicating electronically. As a result, they’re more likely to reveal more to parents through that medium.
However, this doesn’t excuse a lack of face-to-face interaction.
Don’t be afraid to embrace the unique opportunities for combing kids and technology presents. For example, texting often leads to a steadier flow of communication — more check-ins — between parent and child. In fact, the digital exchange of funny pictures and videos isn’t a far cry from looking through photo albums or watching TV together.
Did you miss the baby’s hilarious reaction to trying sweet potatoes for the first time? Don’t worry: Your 13-year-old probably captured it with their smartphone, linked to YouTube and it’s now trending on Twitter.
Constant connection is certainly advantageous in the safety department. After all, families aren’t usually OK with loved ones scattered around town at 3 a.m. But those pre-dawn Black Friday sales can be irresistible.
It’s good knowing everyone is a quick text or call away — especially if help is needed when the “doorbuster” mob appears to be getting out of hand.
Parents can rest easier knowing children have a cell phone when out with friends at the mall or a party. They can track the phone’s location and activities as needed. And if a kid lands in a situation that feels wrong, it’s easy to quietly text mom or dad for a way out.
So in this season of Thanksgiving, we can be grateful for advancements in communication. Sure, set boundaries for children (and yourself) such as designated “unplug times.” But remember to also look for ways that new technology can bring families together.
Handheld devices don’t have to be divisive.
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