Tweens, Teens, and Technology: Three Strategies to Get on the Same Technological Team!
In the middle of my college class my student’s phone rang. As she answered, Hannah (pseudonym) stated, “Professor Hegel, this is a very important call.” I replied, “Hannah, this is a very important class!” Hannah got up and walked out.
Immediately, I gave what I call the “Eileen Eyes,” meaning a perplexed, goofy roll with a look that says, “Did this really just happen?” I know my students will laugh, and they did, which also breaks the tension before my mini-lecture. In this instance, before my speech I knew that I needed to wait for Hannah to return. This way, I could also hear a little more about what she had to say and how we could bridge our gadget and generational gap.
Like a lot of parents, many educators were not raised on technology and this digital invasion initially left many of us perplexed as in my case scenario. However, after some thought to what I realized would be the wave of the future, rather than let gadgets get me, I decided to grab them. While I don’t always go with the group, this time I knew that I needed too.
As parents and educators, we all need to continuously get a grip on what can regularly be a technological conflict particularly with the young people in our life. As I mentioned, rather than try to beat them, we need to develop some winning strategies such as point to the positive, get our guidelines, and emphasize that we’re on our tweens and teens same technological team.
Strategy One – Point to the Positive
Rather than regularly tell our tweens and teens what not to do, we need to make our focus on what they can do. Yes, point to the positive aspects of technology in the life of our tweens and teens. Words have power.
In her book, The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language that Helps Children Learn, Paula Denton, Ed.D. stated “Language is one of the most powerful tools available to teachers,” and I would add to parents as well. Denton continued, “language molds are sense of who we are; helps us understand how we think, work, and play; and influences the nature of our relationships.” Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D. noted "with positivity you are literally steeped in a different biochemical stew."
Therefore, as parents and educators we must create a climate conducive for our tweens and teens to learn particularly as related to technology. We do this through positivity. Many parents regularly say, “Why are you on the phone so darn much, it really annoys me!” when a positive route would be more productive. For instance, “I realize that talking and texting to your friends is important to you, why don’t we schedule a time to both talk and/or text.” This also communicates team spirit!
Strategy Two – Get Our Guidelines
If we don’t already have family or classroom guidelines in place for technology, we need to get them, put them in writing, go over them, and keep them positive too. Just like a professional football team has a playbook so everyone knows the game strategy, we need to put our guidelines on paper. This way, everyone knows the rules and regulations, plus, we communicate that we have the same vision and play on the same technological team.
Rather than write, “No cell phones at the dinner table,” we can put, “After dinner we will all take a technological break for one-half hour.” Educators can state similar protocol for their classrooms.
As an example, the other day I had one of my adult students tell me that as she tried to teach her daughter to bake the child was on the phone. This led to an argument for what should have been a fun project. In situations like these, with positive language we can also remind our tweens and teens of our technological team guidelines that point us to our winning family strategies. We can say something like, “Kate, I have been excited to bake with you. Let’s make sure we keep our phones off so we can enjoy our time and stick to our technological guidelines.”
Strategy Three – A Call for Collaboration
While it may seem at times like an oxymoron for parents to collaborate with their children as related to technology, and in some instances it may be, such as when parents have already tried this strategy, the importance of we-statements must be emphasized. As noted with my first two strategies, we-statements and/or positive language shift the focus from the negative. In his book, the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, Stephen Covey, Ph.D. noted the importance of we-statements as a premise for win-win situations.
Moreover, we-statements keep in mind one of the basic tenets of conflict management and that being collaboration which should be a goal of every family. With collaboration as opposed to compromise, a family seeks to come up with positive solutions where everyone feels they have won. With compromise, family members feel they have given up something.
In their 2013 research on the value of collaboration as related to work, Cisco found that their participants talked about the topic in terms of “shared values, common vision, teamwork and working together.” These principles also contribute to team-oriented and successful families. As Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor company remarked, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Without a doubt, tweens, teens, and technology can easily cause most parents and educators to easily go off on a tirade. However, we can play on the same technological team if we point to the positive, get our guidelines, and keep some collaboration in place. Just as in my case with the classroom and Hannah, if we get these winning strategies in order, we can help to bridge our gadget and generational gap where we all gain a victory!