The Scary Side of Parenting the iGen

Posted on: Nov 25, 2014

Categories: Change Management

Updated January 2019

Have you heard? They’re calling your children the iGen, and I have to say, I find this disturbing.

The iGen, or Gen Z, is anyone born in the late ‘90s through the present day. They don’t remember a time before iPhones or the Internet. They don’t even know what dial-up was. They are born and bred on technology.

I don’t have a problem with technology. I think it is an incredibly useful tool, and I personally have benefitted greatly from the invention of Siri and my iPad.

But too many of us are allowing technology to raise our children. We hand them our phones or iPods when we’re out to eat so we don’t have to listen to them bickering, teach them how to behave in a nice setting, or train them to remain seated until the meal is over. These basic protocols that we learned the hard way as kids are not being taught to our children today. We are able to continue our conversations at the table, but we’re doing a huge disservice to the ones we love the most.

We set them up in front of the computer, iPad, or television at home so that we don’t have to engage in their lives or their thoughts, answer the many questions that a child has, the building blocks for their social intelligence. They spend seven and a half hours a day on average engaging with entertainment media instead of real people.

We give them cell phones at a young age and don’t monitor their use unless they rack up extra charges on our bill, leading to a rise in Carpal Tunnel Syndrom from excessive texting (the average teen sends 3,146 text messages each month, according to Nielsen Research) and cyberbullying (25% of teenagers have experienced repeated cyberbullying).

2018 statistics from the Pew Research Center show that a whopping 95% of American teens have a smartphone and 45% admit to being online almost all the time.

When we look at these facts, it’s a lot easier to point the finger at the generation as a whole, to claim that “kids these days” are addicted to technology and have no self-control. But we as parents can’t be without blame. We remember what life looked like before they built iPad stands into baby chairsour children do not.

I’m not going to say that parenting the iGen is easy. In fact, I think it’s overall a lot harder than what our parents had to deal with because danger has gotten a lot better at hiding in plain sight. But even so, we can set boundaries and stop treating our children like they’re adults who have the experience and the emotional intelligence to know when to walk away from technology.

Need help getting started? Check out The Phone Contract Everyone Needs for inspiration on how to set boundaries for your children and try setting hours of the day that are “unplugged” for the family as a whole, such as meal times, the few hours before bed, or Saturday family game night. My wife created this for our kids when they got their first phones, and while navigating technology and teens is always a challenge, I really believe this got them on the right footing.

If it worked for Steve Jobs, it could work for you too. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your children return to coloring, riding bikes, putting on shows, and interacting in a whole new way.

You may even find that they don’t need to be as entertained as you think.

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