My Child Spends Too Much Time On the Computer

April 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Ask Dr. Vicki, Family

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Dear Dr. Vicki:

My daughter and all of her friends spend hours chatting/blogging on the computer and she doesn’t spend any time with me. That is all we argue about. She feels I am always harassing her about it. I HATE computers. How can I change me/it? What’s a reasonable amount of time to be on the computer? I’ve been told it’s the “teenagers” way of communicating????? Thanks.

Dr. Vicki’s response:

I hear this complaint a lot. The computer is, in fact, the way children communicate these days. The phone is basically obsolete. As children, we could spend hours on the phone, and had control of who we called. Now, the kids get on line and just wait to see who shows up. And they can have multiple conversations going at once! It is also typical that as kids get older, they tend to spend more time with friends and in their rooms than they do with their families. So, your daughter’s behavior may be very normal. However, that does not mean that you can’t do anything about it. I would advise setting some parameters regarding the computer, much as you would the phone. Have a talk with her before deciding on limits, to find out the most popular times for her friends to be on-line. That way, you aren’t cutting off her prime time.

I suggest thinking of the computer as you would the phone. After school, and later in the evening, the kids like to chat. Perhaps the limits can be an hour after school, and then an hour after homework in the evening. That should give time for other activities such as family time, reading, pursuing other interests. Just keep in mind that this is how the kids socially interact, as annoying as it may seem!

You may also want to try and designate some mother/daughter time during the weekend, whether it’s breakfast out on Sat. morning, a walk on the beach, getting your nails painted. The activity doesn’t really matter, as long as you can get some time with her.

Just remember, parents become less of a priority and friends more of one as she gets older. However, as the parent, you are still in the position of setting limits. Having a conversation with her will help you understand what realistic limits might be.

© MMVI Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D.

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