As a company, we love to surround ourselves with other experts. Often in our presentations, we are approached by parents, and sometimes youth themselves, looking for counselling specific to online challenges faced, such as online pornography or gambling addiction and even self-harm or suicidal ideations specific to online usage. We have now located such a counsellor who we are now very EXCITED to be partnering with; Ginger Henderson is a single mother of two teens, works with youth in our schools, and is a trained and licensed therapeutic counsellor. Like us, she loves the Internet and Social Media, but she also understands how as parents we play a key role in ensuring our children become good digital citizens. By way of introduction to our followers, we asked Ginger to write a small article on parenting in the digital age, and we think she hit it out of the park. I have stated several times in many of my online writings, as well as in my live seminars, that we need to be our kids “best parent and not their best friend” specific to the online world, Ginger’s below noted article explains why:
Online Boundaries: When Being Your Child’s BFF isn’t Best
Ginger Henderson, Registered Counsellor
Parenting comes with an abundance of challenges and finding the right balance between compassion, boundaries, camaraderie and guidance can be overwhelming for many. Parents often come to me frustrated or concerned about their child’s behaviour regarding video games, Internet usage or “screen time”. They want help; tools to stop what they see as unhealthy behaviour surrounding their child’s use of technology.
As a mother of two, I understand the busyness and exhaustion that can accompany parenting, which can habitually lead to lax rules in order to keep the peace. It often seems easier to allow screen time in order continue to keep your child happy and the house running smoothly.
Feeling like a friend to your child can feel comforting and easier than the alternative. What many parents don’t realize, however, is that the decision to allow the behaviour to continue (because it is more comfortable than intercepting) is actually harming the child. Our children’s brains are not equipped with the mechanics to balance desire, reward and consequences in the proper sequence needed to consistently make appropriate decisions. This is where we – as parents – must step in! If we notice behaviour that does not feed a healthy balance, it is our job to intercept, teach, and set firm boundaries. When we enable our children to continue online behaviour we see as unhealthy, we are damaging their ability to make successful future decisions and are enabling their brains to develop and reinforce pathways towards possible addiction.
Online pornography and Internet addictions are a reality among today’s youth, yet the majority of these pre-teens and teens are living under their parent’s roof. So, where is their parent? We must remember that our children do not need us to be their friends: they need our guidance.
Once children are making clear and healthy decisions with little or no direction from parents, elements of friendship can be incorporated. Until then, being their friend first can be damaging. The Internet can be a wonderful place for kids to explore and learn but it can also be a very dangerous. Child predators, bullies and choices that could damage your child emotionally and socially for life are at their fingertips. We wouldn’t allow a child to walk downtown alone, in the dark, with a possible unknown danger just around the corner; why then are so many children allowed to roam the Internet alone, unguided, with the hope that they know how to navigate themselves safely?
Teens (as opposed to pre-teens) face an even more challenging predicament. Their peers are now doing most of their socializing online, through websites like Facebook and apps, such as Snapchat and Instagram. This makes alone time almost non-existent.
Teens need parents to help them balance the use of these programs, for their safety and in order to ensure the cognitive patterns they are developing are healthy. Like children, teens do not have the ability to take in images, information, reward, and cause and effect the same way adults do. While teens may appear independent, they still rely on parents to guide them and not walk passively beside them as they form habits, connections and patterns that could not only be damaging, but dangerous for them. Setting boundaries does not replace or destroy a bonded and compassionate relationship with your child or teen: it is through boundaries that the success and security of your relationship with your child will increase.
I can understand the difficulty parents may have setting new boundaries, having conversations with their teens regarding pornography or simply how to change the dynamics within their relationship with their child, if they have recognized there may be some discrepancies. If you are feeling you may need some support in these or other areas, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Ginger Henderson RTC
Registered Therapeutic Counsellor
Innerlife Health Services
Royal Oak Shopping Plaza
101-4475 Viewmont Ave