Technology seems to be one of the main problems parents face with their kids these days.
“How much is too much?
“What’s appropriate for their age?”
“What about all the research that says how bad it all is?”
And that’s really the tip of the iceberg, right?
And when you add Unschooling and Technology - how does THAT work? Stepping into the unschooling world, you might hear things like “no screen limits” and it can make your head spin!
Setting limits seems to be an appropriate thing for parents to do with kids.
But unschooling families aren’t moving in that direction at all.
How can THAT be good??
Ok, whew? That’s a lot of questions.
I can already feel everyone's anxiety rising as I write this all out!
Unschooling and Technology - it's time we talk about it!
Let’s talk about it today, calmly, rationally - let’s step out of the power struggle and into a place where we can connect with our kids.
I’m Sue Patterson, and this is the Unschooling Mom2Mom podcast. I pop in here each week to give you a little encouragement. And when I say “a little,” I mean it! I try to keep these podcasts in the 5-10 minute range. That’s the goal at least because I know you’re busy. And looking at parenting and education from this different perspective takes some effort. It’s a lot to process! But that’s how you get there. Little steps, mulling over these ideas.
I’m sending you some reassurance - from someone who’s been there! My kids are all grown and I want to talk to you about what I’ve seen work and not work when it comes to unschooling. And sometimes, when we’re choosing something this unconventional, we need a community around us to help us see all of our options, to help us continue to peel back layers that are either habits or ideas that keep us stuck in the status quo. You really can be the parent you want to be - even if you’re not 100% sure what that even means! It’s going to change over time - kids grow and need you in different ways and YOU will grow too right alongside them, learning how to parent them in the best way possible.
But Technology. Let’s go there.
I have a lot of topics about Technology we could explore - and I do that in the Unschooling Guide:Technology. It has 25 pages filled with resources for you. But also, at least once a week, topics about kids and their technology show up in my coaching group too - and I help parents work through their fears and get back to steadier ground. You can always join us there.
Both of these are easy to find at SuePatterson.com/Technology for the Guide and SuePatterson.com/membership, for the coaching group.
One of the most common topics parents worry about, centers around limiting their kids’ time on their devices. We’ve read the articles - or we’ve heard other people go on and on about the articles they’ve read…. About kids who are supposedly “addicted” to their games, or totally zoned out and not involved in family activities, or resist getting off the computer even after they’ve been on for what we consider “long enough.”
And maybe as I’m listing those behaviors, you’re thinking -
“Yeah! My kids acts like that too!”
So let’s do a little excavating here. Truth be told, some people will bail right here on the podcast. They don’t want to look at changing anything THEY are doing - they just want me to tell them how to make their KIDS change. And sure, we can coerce and threaten - but that always backfires. And if it doesn’t backfire, it’s because we’ve made the child so fearful of the parent’s reaction or powerfulness…which sets an entire trajectory of lying, sneaking, and distance between the child and the parent. That’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do as unschoolers. We’re looking for more connection, for building trust, for partnering with our kids.
If you had the reaction of “yes! My kid is obsessed with technology,” I want you to know about something called Confirmation Bias. It’s not intentional, we do it when we hold a belief and we only look for examples that support that idea. If we see something inconsistent with the belief, we disregard it.
So I want you to do something that will counter this. Deliberately and consciously look for examples where your child is doing other things, switches gears easily, connects with you and the family. Let’s give them some credit for those things too! Don’t let your fears and worries brush these aside so you can only see the examples of what concerns you.
Another thing has to do with the language we use. Those with true addictions in their families know that what most kids are doing - even if they are playing for many hours - is not true addiction. I think I may do another podcast entirely on the language we use regarding behaviors that frighten us… but as someone whose brother died from drug addiction at only 25 - this is not that.
But the one topic around technology that I want us to tackle this time - man! It took me quite a while to Get TO It- is about all the feelings and meanings surrounding the words “screen limits.”
Mainstream Parents confidently boast, “My kids play games, but we have clear ‘screen limits.”
The message is “I’m a good parent because I run a tight ship! Or these kids know I’m boss. Or, these kids can’t be trusted to… trust themselves.” And as John Holt said a long time ago, we don’t trust kids because long ago, WE werent trusted either. Couldn’t be trusted. (Another whole podcast on that too, right?)
But to counter that, unschooling parents say, “My kid has no screen limits.”
And then everyone recoils aghast!
Sometimes it has to do with sound bytes. They don’t really describe things well though. They may even jar you. But the point is to get your attention and to think about what you’re doing consciously. To be intentional.
As we’ve said all along in these podcasts through, Fear is happy to jump in if we hesitate.
Fear wants to maintain the conformity and keep us safe.
But let’s move Fear from the drivers’ seat and say,
“It’s safe for us to look at this. Calm down, Fear.”
6 Ideas about Kids & Technology
I’m going to give you a few ideas to ponder
and hopefully it will bring you some clarity or at least help you see it doesn’t have to be and Either/Or Scenario:
The Total Control Freak Parent
The Total, Sure-Anything-and-Everything-Is-Cool Parent.
With the terminology “no screen limits,” what is usually meant is no ARBITRARY time limits on their devices. No 2-hour limit or some predetermined, this-is-Our-House-Rule scenario.
Referring to all technology as a “Screen” - really implies a lack of knowledge and it’s an attempt to be negative about the tool - be it a phone, a tablet, a laptop, a desktop. It’s almost a dog whistle to say “I’m on top of this ‘problem’ we all know about,” and “I’m not one of THOSE parents.” We’re looking for a kind of Parenting Peer Group Approval.
It’s really common for society to resist progress. History has shown us that they resisted books when they first became available to the masses. They thought it would prevent people from ever having conversations again! Rock and Roll was going to be the downfall of the world, remember? We like a comfy non-changing world. We certainly don’t want our kids wandering off into some unfamiliar territory! But that’s the plight of parents - in every generation really.
I want you to remember that these various forms of technology are simply tools to bring information into our worlds. Just like books did. Now it’s bigger - more reach, more information. And something different from books is that these technological tools perform so many different things! They help us research on the internet. They let us strategize in games.They helps us stay connected with friends. I have a whole PDF of academic skills as well as soft skills that grow because of tech use. I’ll link it. But the point is to not sweep with a broad brush! Even to take the Book analogy a step further… if we were growing up and our parents said, “Get your nose outta that book! Go do something else!” Would they have stopped us if we went to the kitchen to cook something - using a RECIPE BOOK? Would they say, sorry, you’ve already been on books long enough. STOP It! ...No.
When we put limits on... anything really, we make it more desirable. It’s the theory of the Forbidden Fruit. When we lean in to learn more about what they’re doing, it helps us trust them a little more. When we HAVE HAD limits, we can expect them to hold on tightly and not want to let go! They’re afraid we’re going to change our minds! So they want to play while they can. Or whatever it was that they feel they were deprived of. Only when we step away from controlling it, can they get the opportunity to actually see when they’ve had enough or might want to do some th info else. Their internal motivation needs to be allowed to grow and strengthen.
And this leads me to the last thing for my list about “screen limiting.” If you’re listening, your kid probably enjoys their technology. For unschooling to really work, we have to embrace their interests and curiosities. We certainly don’t want to be the villain in this scenario - the one keeping them from their beloved games or phone or whatever. Don’t set it up as an either/or scenario. Think of it more as a buffet - and they simply are enjoying one end of the buffet more than the other. Enjoy their enjoyment! That will go a long way toward building the trust that needs to be cultivated so unschooling can really work!
That’s probably enough for now - even though I know you’ll have some more, “Yeah, but what about when…” questions! Leave them in the comments and that will help me know topics to bump up for next time.
If you want to dive into the Unschooling Guide about Technology, it’s available!
And if you did need more support from me or from an entire community of unschooling parents - reach out to join the coaching group or hop on a call with me.
You don’t have to do this alone!
And so that’s it from me - I’ll be back to talk with you again next week!
You can do this - you can be the parent you want to be!
Take care - and happy unschooling!