Jamie Miles of South Main Muse recently wrote about the struggles of parenting a middle schooler — particularly dealing with monitoring your child’s technology use and navigating the changes in attitude that can happen so quickly as kids move from 5th grade to 6th grade.
Jamie’s post spurred me to offer some advice for moms of middle school kids:
1. Be vigilant, but don’t overdo it.
You’ll burn out if you try to monitor all your kid’s social networking platforms, 24/7. Experiment and find a balance that works for you and your child at his current age. Set a daily or weekly time limit for your child’s social media usage, and stick to it.
Texts, emails, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter…and those are the ones you’ve heard of and can monitor. The latest craze is SnapChat, which lets you send “fleeting” photos to someone else — the photo appears on the recipient’s phone then disappears after a few seconds!
2. Be flexible.
Remember the age of your child, and be willing to adapt or change your stance as she gets older. What your kid’s friends are doing is essential — if almost everyone else is socializing on Tumblr or via group text, your kid may be left out and feel disconnected from social opportunities and news.
Sit down with your child and brainstorm ways to compromise. Once you both agree on guidelines, don’t be surprised if you have to gently remind her of your rules.
3. Encourage your child to try a digital detox.
As kids get closer to high school, they’ll have more homework and need to increase their study time. When they’re reading and writing so much, it’s essential that they give their eyes and brain a rest. Try taking a break from all electronic devices for a certain amount of time, and encourage your child to join you.
You can avoid devices an hour or two before bed, or even attempt an entire Saturday or Sunday away from screens. What will your kids do with all this extra time? The possibilities are endless — play an instrument, go to a concert, do yoga, jog, or (gasp!) have real-world, face-to-face interactions with other people.