Feb 14, 2024

How Family Values Relate to Screentime

How Family Values Relate to Screentime

& How that Relates to Getting Locked Out of My Google Business Account

& How that Relates to Getting Locked Out of My Google Business Account

family values overlaid childl with screen
family values overlaid childl with screen
family values overlaid childl with screen

Funny story– my 12-year-old got me kicked out of my Google Business account. You may know from previous newsletters that Sylvie and I share a smartphone. For the most part, it’s been a really valuable experience. 

We’re both learning a LOT. (Like how group texts are really a miserable experience! 243 text messages in 30 minutes?! Who has time for that?). 

Because we use Apple devices, Sylvie can text from an iPad and feel like she has some agency over it. 

But of course, because it’s technically my phone number, the texts also appear on my phone or laptop too. (I get asked often– isn’t that an invasion of her privacy? To which I respond: Literally nothing is private on the internet.) I definitely don’t have time to read through 243 text messages, but it offers us lots of opportunities to talk about it.

Ok– so how did she get me locked out of my own Google Business account?

By inadvertently entering her birthdate in some corner of a Google platform, which triggered the bots at Google to say, “Wait– how is a 12-year-old running a business account? This seems fishy!” and locking me out. 

We are now in the process of trying to reinstate it. 

I’m not angry at Sylvie. I know she didn’t mean to. We’re still trying to figure out what, exactly, happened, but in all fairness to her, when she was asked for her birthday– she was honest and gave it. 

(And yes, that’s another conversation we had to have about putting personal information on the internet). But as a family, we have definitely encouraged honesty as a value. And, theoretically, Google et al. are trying to implement things like age verification to protect children (ha), but in situations like ours, when we share the account, we run into issues like getting locked out of our business profile! 

So many kids aren’t truthful about their age online– because the federal age limit for any social media platform is actually 13 years old. (This includes YouTube– so it’s fascinating to me that K-12 schools use YouTube, and yet more than half of their student body are legally underage users…but that’s a different essay!). Or parents will lie for them so their kids can get a social media account. 

Things get pretty murky then when we bump up against our value systems…and what kids (or parents) feel pressured to do. 

I planned to talk about values this week, and this story feels particularly relevant because while our family has talked about honesty and representing ourselves authentically (online and offline), Sylvie was truthful about her age…and it got my account suspended. 

One of the first things I encourage families to do when it comes to becoming Tech-Intentional™ is to start with values.

Before we change a single thing about screentime in our homes, we need to start by identifying our family’s top values. 

Why? 

Once we have clarity about those values, we can fold in our screentime rules and limits. That is, we can make these choices because they align with what we feel is important in our family. 

Becoming a tech-intentional parent and finding balance with screentime always comes back to values. Even in dual-household families, identifying values is important to establishing screentime balance. It’s okay if the values are different in different households. The important thing is that we communicate those values clearly to the children and adults who are involved in following and honoring them.

Sometimes, this may not be possible. Some parents differ so widely in their beliefs that we can’t reconcile them or find common ground. For example, one parent will say, “Well, it’s not me who has the problem enforcing screentime limits; it’s my spouse!” or “I have rules in my house, but when she goes to her dad’s, all bets are off.” (I hear this a lot.) 

That can be challenging—and not just for screentime issues. But when parenting around screentime feels hard, it is important to remember that we can only control what happens in our own households.

Defining Values

Values are individual beliefs that motivate us to act in a certain way. They guide how we behave and what we think is important.

Values can be rooted in religious faith, but they do not have to be. Spirituality, in addition to things like culture and politics, can shape our values. The approach offered in my work is secular, but it can certainly blend into a family’s religious belief system. Take from it what resonates and add it to the systems you already have in place.

Our personal values are also rooted in our family of origin’s belief systems. How we were raised and what we were taught by adults when we were children influence our beliefs today. Sometimes, when our beliefs or values differ from our family of origin, we can experience tension or conflict.

When it comes to screentime, there are many instances of clashing values. For example, grandparents might think parents are giving children way too much access to devices, or they may be guilty of providing excess screentime against their adult children’s wishes. One parent might think concerns about tech use are overwrought, while a spouse or co-parent might be gravely concerned. And children themselves have a lot of opinions and beliefs about tech use and its importance and value to their lives. 

In other words, when it comes to values and screentime, it’s complicated.

Chapter 3 of my book can help you identify the values that are most important to the families you lead. Being Tech-Intentional™ focuses on values as the anchor of our approach to screentime. Part of the definition of “Tech-Intentional” includes this: “Being Tech-Intentional means using screen-based technologies . . . in ways that align with our values.” To become Tech-Intentional in the way we parent, we must have clearly defined values to build on. 

Exercise: Identify Your Values

This exercise can be done by yourself, with your co-parent or caregiver, and even with your children – depending on their ages. On page 63 of the book, you will find a long list of potential values. You can start with this, or feel free to create a list of your own. Read through it, and circle the values that jump out to you. Then, go back through and highlight the ones that feel most important to you personally.

There are no right answers here; try to stay neutral and nonjudgmental.

If you haven’t already narrowed your choices down to three or fewer, try that now. Picking a small number doesn’t mean you don’t have more than three values, but it will make it easier for you to ground your screentime rules in the ones that are most important. 

Have your family members do the same. It’s okay if you and your loved ones have different answers. The goal is to find some common ground and consider which value is the most important to your household.

As a family, share why you picked the values you did. See whether there are common themes. Again, different family members may highlight different values. Are there similarities? Which ones overlap? Are you surprised by the variability or similarity? 

As with anything related to becoming Tech-Intentional™, start with little moments. Ask questions from a place of curiosity, not judgment. Get interested in what your kid is interested in. Listen more than talk. Pay attention to whether your actions match your words.

Parenting is hard.

Parenting in the digital age is REALLY hard.

Remember, you are not alone.

And when your kid gets you kicked out of your Google business account, there are ample teachable moments for both of you.

You’ve got this!

The Screentime Consultant Logo Footer image

Emily Cherkin’s mission is to empower parents to better understand and balance family screentime by building a Tech-Intentional™ movement.

Copyright © 2024 The Screentime Consultant, LLC | All Rights Reserved. | Tech-Intentional™

and The Screentime Consultant, LLC™ are registered trademarks.

The Screentime Consultant Logo Footer image

Emily Cherkin’s mission is to empower parents to better understand and balance family screentime by building a Tech-Intentional™ movement.

Copyright © 2024 The Screentime Consultant, LLC | All Rights Reserved. | Tech-Intentional™

and The Screentime Consultant, LLC™

are registered trademarks.

The Screentime Consultant Logo Footer image

Emily Cherkin’s mission is to empower parents to better understand and balance family screentime by building a Tech-Intentional™ movement.

Copyright © 2024 The Screentime Consultant, LLC | All Rights Reserved. | Tech-Intentional™

and The Screentime Consultant, LLC™ are registered trademarks.