I know how frustrating it is to be a parent of boys in this digital age.
I know the feeling of anger welling up inside you because your son’s not getting off Xbox after 18,000 freakin’ warnings.
And how it feels when he's supposed to be in bed already and he announces he forgot to do his streaks on snapchat -- and that he's gonna lose his 326,421 day streak with his old friend from preschool if he doesn't send them right now. (Come on mom, don't you understand?!?)
Or the guilt you feel when your toddler's sucked into another episode on Netflix, but you still have a list of things to get done so you know he's not getting off anytime soon.
It’s enough to make you hate technology, right? What if I told you that there are some really good reasons to stop hating on technology? That if we can take a deep breath, calm our own nervous systems and get more curious, we might discover that we can use technology as an opportunity to connect?
You’re thinking…technology is the source of our disconnection!
Your son's technology (social media, video games, photos, videos, etc) is as important to him as his sports, academics, in person friendships, family, hobbies and anything else that you think of as important in his life.
Just because you don’t want it to be so important to him, doesn’t mean it isn’t important to him—or that there’s no value in it.
Let’s not argue with reality here. Technology ranks so high in their lives. And when you hate on it A L L T H E T I M E — you’re disconnecting yourself from this part of his life.
We resist this part of their lives…hoping if we do it enough, it’ll go away.
But it won’t.
It’s not going away (and it’s not all bad either). In fact, both of my teen boys are excellent guitar players solely because of what they've learned on online – no lessons, no classes!
Here's my invitation -- today, let's see if you can spend a moment trying to be just a tiny bit curious about what your son is doing online.
Ask a question. Sit with your son while he plays a video game and ask him to tell you more about it. Bite your tongue when you feel the impulse to say something snarky or judgmental. Find out what he’s doing and why. Find out what he likes about the game. You might be surprised. (Added bonus: I got some of my best cuddles from my kids this way.)
Does your son like taking pics with his phone? Ask him to show you his Instagram feed (and follow him too!) Watch a YouTube video that he's enjoying. Yes, even when you think it’s really dumb. Keep an open mind -- maybe you'll find yourself laughing too!
And about our boys watching other people play video games. I used to think it was ridiculous, too. But here's something to consider. Why is it any different than watching people live their lives as we do in TV shows and movies? Especially reality TV where regular people are doing regular stuff while we all watch? Or sports...often instead of playing the sport, we watch it. So, really, why is it so different? My youngest watches gamers on YouTube and loves it - loves watching their skill, the gamer is often funny and he learns tips and tricks.
Technology is an amazing conversation opener — if you can hold back from saying out loud the judgmental tape playing in your head. If you can just sit in the space of curiosity and wonder. If you can really listen and open to understanding them, their world, their interests and their lives through the lens of a digital native.
So when you notice yourself judging your son for watching another YouTube video, playing a shooter game on Xbox, or sending another Snapchat or posting another photo on Instagram…take a breath. Put your stuff aside and enter his world with curiosity. Just for one moment.
Then you can go back to judging 😉 But you might not want to. You might like the connection you felt. It’s just an experiment, but see how you feel.
Here are 3 great reasons why you might want to stop hating on technology:
Technology’s here to stay, and it’s not the all-bad monster we sometimes make it out to be. Most of us grew up without all of these gadgets and devices, so perhaps we can’t fully understand. Let your son show you why it matters to him. Let him show you what he loves, learns and gets from his online experiences.
You may not agree or like it, but if you can hold off on the hating and get curious and interested, you will create a closer connection.
Deb Blum, Founder and Executive Director at The Center for the Well-Being of Boys & Communications Coach for people who want to have better relationships with men and boys.