Could we be modeling to our kids the very behaviours we say we hate?

Cartoon by PC Vey

Cartoon by PC Vey

Renata Rowe, author of the blog icybersafe.com, related the following story recently:

I am driving.  I see Dad begin to cross the road, head down, children laughing and depending on Dad to guide them – he is not there, buried instead in his email, or Instagram or whatever.  I slow to a stop, Dad lifts his gaze for a millisecond, acknowledges me in a kind of vacant glazed way, and head goes down again to his phone. Kids cross the road, oblivious.  My 12 year old, says witheringly, ‘And adults complain about our screen time!’

I’m sure we can all relate to witnessing some sort of scene such as this. This begs the question, are we as parents becoming just as obsessed with our mobile devices as our children? And in doing so, are we modelling to them the very behaviour we say we hate?

During the last September school holidays, a group of Sunshine Coast tourism operators and businesses released a mobile phone ‘Code of Conduct’ for tourists visiting the region. This is believed to be the first of its sort anywhere in the world. The Smarter Smartphone Code of Conduct will soon be displayed on everything from coasters, in taxis and on bedside tables in hotels across the Sunshine Coast. Tourism operators say the code is needed to help visitors make the “most of the moment”. They say they are sick of seeing people walking around staring at their phone their entire holiday instead of taking in the beautiful views.

A study by Galaxy Research, commissioned by Tourism and Events Queensland, found that 50 per cent of Australians believe they could not live 24 hours without their smartphone, while 65 per cent keep their phone within arms reach all day, every day. Eighty per cent of people surveyed said they had had a conversation with someone who was texting at the same time. And more than 45 per cent of Australians said they had argued with their partner over their phone use.

The phenomenon of teenagers living their lives through social networks on their phones is well established. There seems little doubt that this is spreading more and more to parents.

When I was doing some research last year to investigate the benefit of Kalinda Primary beginning its own Facebook page, we discovered that Facebook’s biggest user demographic is not teenagers, but woman in their 30s.  75% of mums in Australia use Facebook every day. The average age of a Facebook user is 38! The average age of a Primary School parent is 39.

Rather than just shaking our heads at the ‘younger generation’, it seems the time has come where we need to question our own phone and social media use as parents.

So take some time to think: what sort of phone/social media use are you modelling to your children? Do you spend too much time looking at your phone? Do you model appropriate ‘phone etiquette’ (for example, not answering a message in the middle of dinner or while having a face to face conversation with someone)? When you use social networks, do you know how to keep yourself safe? Have you set your accounts to a safe level of privacy? Do you take due diligence when deciding what photos to share with the world?

Every teacher knows that modelling certain behaviours is the most powerful way to influence a child’s behaviour. So, with our own phone/social network use as parents, are we modelling all the behaviours we hope our children will adopt when they reach their peak of phone/social network use? Or are we fast adopting the behaviours many of us say we hate?