My 14-year-old daughter flopped down on the couch and said, "Let's watch a movie."
About 10 minutes into the movie—a movie she picked by the way—I glanced over and she wasn't even watching the movie. She was staring at her cell phone.
"I thought you wanted to watch this movie?" I asked. "You're the one that asked me to stop what I was doing to watch this with you."
"I'm just multi-tasking," she responded matter-of-factly. "I'm watching with you, but I'm also texting my friends. I can't not respond when they're texting me."
Fighting for "Eyeball Time"
Technology has led my wife and me into the dreaded "also" phase of life with our teenagers: My son wants to play a board game with me, but he also wants to play "just one more round" of his video game. My daughter wants to go to Starbucks, but she also wants to check her Instagram the entire time. They both want to go on the family camping trip, but they also want to have their phones in front of their faces around the campfire.
This is what I call fighting for "eyeball time."
They are both great kids who love the Lord and have a good relationship with us. But every screen draws their attention like a cat mesmerized by a moth. No matter how much I want to throw my hands up in defeat at times, I have to remind myself of two truths:
- Technology is not the enemy of my family.
- It's my job to teach them balance, moderation, and responsibility in using the ever-growing number of screens in their lives.
Here are a few tips to give you more of the "eyeball time" you want from your teens.
1. Establish a Screen-Free Time...and Stick to It
With the exception of the previous story, family time for us is screen free. Yours can be too. One important detail with screen-free time is that everyone follows the rule. As soon as you break your own rule, your kids will be soon to follow in your footsteps.
2. Be Intentional with Your Time Together
Make the time worthwhile. If you're asking your teen to go without their security blanket (the cell phone), then make sure the time together is something fun that will engage their attention.
3. Set an Example
Model it first. There is nothing worse than wanting a certain behavior from our children that we aren't willing to do ourselves.
When your teen is talking with you, do not answer your phone! It can wait. You only have your child's attention for a few minutes. Take advantage of it.
4. Have Fun
When your daughter is sitting on the couch looking at her Instagram, cuddle up next to her and share silly posts out loud. Let your son humiliate you in a video game. Send a text to them from across the room. I promise, they will laugh at your attempt to be hip.
Final Thought: Don't Give Up
Contrary to how it may feel, your teenager wants time with you. It's just that the pull of the screens can seem so much stronger at times. Don't give up. Create the right moment, pray for the Lord to draw the two of you together and watch what He does.
Article courtesy of Parenting Teens magazine.