Q: Our 13-year-old daughter has been mature for her age from early on. She takes advanced classes and makes straight A’s. She’s also very talented musically. We think, however, that she has become a media addict. She spends entirely too much time in her room on her computer, mostly using social media. When she’s not on the computer, she’s using her phone to text her friends. We’ve asked her to limit her use, but our words are falling on deaf ears. What approach would you recommend short of cutting off the internet and taking away her phone? She needs a computer to do her schoolwork.
A: If she's addicted to electronic media, which may be the case, then I don't think there's any approach that’s going to work short of restricting her use of the internet and taking away her phone.
Move her computer to a family area so you’re able to monitor her use, which you can restrict to school purposes. No child her age should have a private password, by the way. That simply invites trouble, but you can’t do much about that as long as the computer is in her room.
At age 13, she doesn’t need her own cell phone, unless one defines need as “needing” to have what her friends have. You can give her a cell phone on select occasions, such as a camping trip where no other type of phone is available. It’s probably the case that she doesn’t go on lots of camping trips, which only goes to prove that she doesn’t need her own cell phone.
You’ve asked her to limit her use? Who, pray tell, is running your household? I suspect that like many of today’s parents, you’re reluctant to do anything about this problem that might cause your daughter any inconvenience, much less distress. In the 12-Step world, that’s known as enabling, and in the real world, that’s how problems go from bad to worse.
Q: I know you think children as young as 3 should be doing chores around the home. That seems awfully young, but can you recommend several age-appropriate chores I can try with my 3-and-one-half year old daughter?
A: Chores are an exercise in good citizenship, which your great grandmother said began in the home. They teach children teamwork, responsibility to others, and the service ethic. As such, household chores strengthen America.
By the time I was your daughter’s age, my mother — single at the time — had me washing floors. She began my education in domestic maintenance in a small area of the house. In no time, I was washing large areas like the kitchen. Oh, did I mention that chores also endow children with a feeling of competence and contribution?
One thing at a time, teach your daughter how to wash floors, dust furniture, and help you clean up after a meal. In no time, you’ll have a live-in maid! And a happy one at that!