How Social Media Is Changing Parenting

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Free play at the beach.

Parenting has changed through the years. We all know that our childhoods were a lot freer that our kids’ schedules. Well, except for that dang list my mom would leave us. My brother and I were latch-key kids and Mom would write a list of chores on a yellow legal pad. She’d fill up the entire thing, sometimes both sides. Her handwriting was atrocious and it was a chore just to read the list! It was her method of keeping us busy while she was taking classes at the University of Washington. Better than a babysitter, because she’d come home and the house was clean and dinner would be ready!

According to a study from the University of Alberta, social media is partially the reason why there’s a big change in parenting today.  In an article called How social media altered the good parenting ideal by Michael Brown, University of Alberta, he explains why. Here’s an excerpt:

Social media has altered perceptions of what good parenting is and may play a role in the reduction in the amount of time kids spend just playing, according to a University of Alberta study.

“It has long been known that children today aren’t playing outside as much as they used to, nor are they playing as freely and without supervision as they used to do,” said U of A Ph.D. student Shannon Pynn, who led the study. “We were looking at why this has happened when we realized this idea of free play kept coming up in terms of good parenting.”

Pynn said this “good parenting ideal” refers to how parents understand what’s expected of them from their social network, people in their community and the broader society.

“It’s basically what parents think other parents think is good parenting,” she said.

What she wanted to know was how the good parenting ideal changed in relation to active free play and why.

Pynn and her colleagues interviewed 14 sets of parents and grandparents to get a feel for what free play looked like when they were children and parents.

One theme emerging from the interviews was that some parents today parent differently from how they were parented because they are expected to have their kids in structured activities, said Pynn.

“That’s one reason free play isn’t so much of a thing anymore—kids are playing a lot more sports and participating in many more structured activities, so they don’t really have the time to go outside to play anymore.”

Pynn said structure crept into free play because of heightened safety concerns propagated by social media. Because news is so readily accessible, events like child abductions, for instance, are affecting the behavior of parents a world away.

“Social media makes it all feel a little closer to home, when in reality statistics show that kids are actually safer today than they were in the past,” Pynn said. “The safety concerns are not really founded, but they’re heightened because of social media. That didn’t happen in their grandparents’ days.”

As well, Pynn said parents are concerned about being judged on social media platforms or on any number of parenting sites.

There’s a lot more to the article and it’s well worth reading the entire thing.

Looking back, I did most of my parenting without social media. It wasn’t a thing yet. But there still was pressure from our school community to sign our kids up for certain activities. We chose swimming after trying tennis, ballet, golf, tee ball and karate. Both kids like liked swimming and we found a second home at the pool and a whole new set of parents to hang out with.

Swimming does take a lot of time and our days were structured. Before swimming there was more free play time. We have a park nearby and they used to have really awesome equipment, like a stagecoach for the kids to climb on. I’ll never forget the tall scary slide that freaked me out whenever my toddler son would climb to the top. I’m glad my kids got to play in the park before the city replaced the “unsafe” equipment with rubber padded ground and non-slippery slides.

There was also lots of beach time in the summer. The kids would use their imaginations creating kitchens or castles out of sand. Of course, they also fought over sand. Because there’s nothing like your siblings sandpile, right?

Once they were swimmers, we’d have their swim friends over to the house and they’d play like crazy. I remember a game called sardines which is like a reverse hide-and-seek. I loved  the laughter and sorely miss that sound in my empty nest.

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Celebrating Natasha’s birthday. Probably my son’s idea!

What are your favorite things your kids did in free play before social media told us how to act?

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Can we teach good sportsmanship?

 

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Open Water Nats–being good sports after a close 5k race.

 

Nobody likes a sore loser and I think it’s even worse to have a gloating winner. In an article on CNN called “If I Were a Parent: Teaching kids to be good sports” by Kelly Wallace, the number one way to teach good sportsmanship is through role modeling.

“Losing is not easy for many kids, and being a graceful winner can in some ways be even harder, so the question becomes: what can parents do to teach their children good sportsmanship?

“Rule No. 1 seems simple enough but is too often overlooked by helicopter parents who are living vicariously through their children. Parents should model the behavior they want to see in their kids, said John O’Sullivan, author of “Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids.”

“Kids are not very good at listening, but they are fantastic at imitating,” said O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing the Game Project, which says it seeks to “put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’ “

“And so if you want your kids to display good sportsmanship, you should. If you don’t want your kids to yell at referees, you shouldn’t yell at referees.”

The article goes on to talk about the flip side, lousy winners:

“And as for teaching your child how to win and win gracefully, remind them how it felt when they were on the losing side. “The biggest thing that I always say to my team when you’re winning by a lot is, ‘you know what, you’ve been on the other side of it where you’ve lost by a lot. Do you remember how that felt? So don’t do anything that’s going to make your opponent feel any worse right now,’ ” O’Sullivan said.

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Cheering on a teammate.

What do we mean when we talk about being a good sport? It’s easy to point out kids and parents who aren’t. They are mean, rude, usually loud and they do not care about how they affect those around them. Parents who are bad sports are causing fights these days with coaches and landing in jail! With social media catching every incident of bad parent behavior, it seems like it’s happening more frequently, but I haven’t seen any stats to know if that true or not.

Being a good sport is simple. It’s treating others with respect. It’s not talking badly about others behind their backs or throwing your equipment down. I remember when my brother was on the golf team in high school, there was a player who broke their golf clubs more than once when he lost. Staying composed and not getting too caught up in the moment helps us be better role models. In our kids’ sports, the process is just as important–or more so–than winning.

I think another important element in teaching good sportsmanship, besides being good role models, is to compliment our kids when you see them being a good sport. In swimming after races, you often see swimmers reaching over lane lines to hug the winner or you see the winner reaching out to competitors to shake hands. When you see your child being a good sport, point it out and say you’re proud of them. If you see other kids showing good sportsmanship, be sure to tell your child how much you admire them for their actions.

 

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My daughter showing good sportsmanship.

How do you teach your children good sportsmanship?

 

The mystery of the missing glasses

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Views from the morning beach walk.

We unpacked from vacation last night and I can’t find my glasses. This is especially bad, because I’m having eye surgery in a few weeks and I’m not supposed to wear my contacts. The question is — where did my glasses go?

Our vacation was in a VRBO beachy house in Summerland, a quaint town near Santa Barbara. We had our daughter and Waffles the pug stay with us for the first weekend and then mid-week our son and his girlfriend joined us.

It was one of the most relaxing and best vacations in recent memory. We walked the beach a few blocks below the house each morning. Each day brought new sights with a combination of fog, clear sunshine, horses, dogs, seals and dolphins. After the morning walk, my husband and I’d log onto our laptops for a few hours work. Then back to another beach for hours sitting under an umbrella, watching the waves and reading. We’d end the beach day with another walk with our feet in the cool ocean water. What we found so surprising was practically vacant beaches in August — in So Cal!

Dinners we shared with friends and the kids. We know several great couples who live in the area and we laughed through great meals and memories, like grilled fresh ahi, a delicious Italian restaurant and a make-your-own pizza night. For the kids, I cooked prime steaks, salads and their favorite veggies, using my tried and true reverse sear method I found on youtube.

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The beachy VRBO.

I was resigned that the wonderful vacation must come to an end. What I wasn’t prepared for was losing my glasses. The last time I wore them was at our friend’s house and I packed my small handbag with contacts and glasses — I’m sure.

The next few weeks will be interesting, because without contact lenses, I cannot drive. I’m literally going to be housebound until my cataract surgery — except if my friend takes me to Masters swimming and I can manage to swim blind.

My contact lenses change the curvature of my eyes, so I have to let my eyeballs rest and return to normal. I scrounged up an old pair of glasses at least five years old and scratched as heck. But it’s better than nothing, I guess. I plan on taking my morning walks, and continue on with my writing, although at a slower speed and most likely more typos — since I can’t see worth beans. In the long run it will be worth it. But, where did my glasses go?

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Waffles on a beach run.

My girlfriend has searched her house on her hands and knees. I have done the same in my own house. I’ve gone through trash, laundry, drawers, suitcases, bags, under beds, and throughout the car and trunk. Of course, I blame my missing glasses on my husband — but that’s a story for another time. Just when I need my glasses the most, poof! They’re gone!

I’ll let you know if they turn up and where they disappeared to! Any ideas?

 

Pro Tip: Don’t go on your kid’s job interview

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My kids are working and I’ve never helped either get a job — or gone on a job interview. Surprising that many parents do just that!

Doesn’t it seem obvious that our job as a parent is to put ourselves out of a job? If we prepare our kids to be independent and self-sufficient, then yes they should be able to find a job without us sitting at their side.

I’ve read several articles in the news where parents are doing more and more for their kids—kids who have graduated from college and are ages 22 to 25. Here’s one of the articles I found called “Parents, Please Don’t Attend Your Adult Child’s Job Interview,” by Amy Morin.

Twenty years ago, parents told their children to get jobs. Ten years ago, parents encouraged their children to get jobs. Now, parents are attending job interviews alongside their children.

Michigan State University surveyed employers who recruit recent college graduates to learn how parents are getting involved in their adult children’s job search. Here’s what employers had to say:

• 40% had dealt with parents who were trying to obtain information about the company on their children’s behalf

• 31% had received resumes submitted by parents on behalf of their children

• 26% had contact with parents who tried to convince them to hire their sons or daughters

• 15% had heard complaints from parents whose child did not get hired

• 12% had dealt with parents who tried to arrange their child’s interview

• 9% had contact with a parent who tried to negotiate their child’s salary

• 6% had received calls from parents who were advocating for their child’s raise or a promotion

• 4% had seen parents attend the interview with their child

The article goes on to say that parents involvement doesn’t end at the job search. Once the “kids” are employed, parents help out by making sure work is done on time, often finishing writing reports or editing them to make the work “better.” What do you bet these are the same parents who stayed up at night writing reports or completing science fair projects for their middle school and high school kids?10575366_10204674805333844_4491881722162368424_o

What are your thoughts about helping your kids find a job? Please share how you think we could be able to help.

 

When do we cross the line posting pics of our kids?

 

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An example of a photo my daughter would not like me to post on Facebook.

 

Just to be perfectly clear, I post lots of photos of my kids. That said, I read an article this morning where an 18-year-old is suing her mom and dad for posting her life on Facebook. It will be enlightening to see if she wins her case. 

I’ve also read articles where it’s dangerous to post your young children’s photos on FB. Here’s an interesting read that explores the pros and cons of posting kids photos from the Wall Street Journal.

My daughter doesn’t like it when I post old photos of her on Facebook. I need to ask her approval before posting any pictures of her.

I’ve got some great old photos, too. I find them all sweet, funny, cute. She says friends on her swim team scour parents FB pages to find embarrassing photos to tweet.

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Christmas 1996. How could I possibly resist posting this?

My son blocked me from his FB, because I didn’t approve of things he was posting and made the mistake of telling him about it. Because I was blocked, I missed the post where he tried to give away our cat and got quite a few takers. You can read more about that here.

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Olive the kitten my son tried to give away online.

Isn’t it amazing how different our children’s lives are growing up with social media? We had a chance to escape the pressure of posting selfies, sushi and all the fun and smiles, all the time. We hung out at pizza parlors, long after our salads or slices were finished. We went to football games and dances in the small gym afterwards. We spent time together. We laughed and talked. When we weren’t face-to-face, we had an old-fashioned telephone and talked for hours. We also had downtime and privacy. Lots of it.

I wonder what is going to happen to our kids whose lives are on display? They don’t know anything else and even if we stop posting their pictures, they’ll do it on their own.

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Top Reasons Why Freshman Fail

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My son’s high school grad speech.

I wonder why so many kids fail college? I was shocked to read a statistic from ACT that 50% of freshman students do not return for their second year. Then, 30% of those remaining, do not graduate within five years!

Why? What can we do to better prepare our kids for college? There is so much pressure on our kids to get into great schools.You’d think with the great expense, and all their work to get in, it would be a breeze once they are there. But, it’s not.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

Here’s my list of why I think kids fail their freshman year:

ONE

Too many kids go to college. I do not think everyone should go. When I was in high school the majority of students did not continue their education past high school. They were able to get jobs, support themselves and their families without a college education. Today, a college degree has become the norm and standard. There are many kids who would be better served to work for a few years, and then decide if they want to go to college. By having everyone go, and not everyone is equipped to go, some kids are set up for failure. There are many careers that don’t require a college degree and provide a more than decent living like electricians, plumbers, hair dressers, etc.


TWO

High school doesn’t prepare kids for college. The work is often spoon-fed by teachers in little lumps of daily assignments and reading. Having a syllabus with a couple dates on it and no day-to-day requirements is more what college is like. It takes discipline, motivation and self-determination to not procrastinate, but to work and study in advance of deadlines. Our kids leave high school without the training for a college schedule.

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A gorgeous location. UCSB.

THREE

We do too much. As helicopter, hovering parents, we are afraid to let our kids fail. We don’t let our kids learn from their mistakes. They need to have more chores, part-time jobs or something to do besides homework. Some of the crazy, heavy AP schedules don’t allow for real life experiences. Plus, we cater to our kids’ every needs—even to the point of helping them complete projects or assignments. My conversation with four-time Olympian and former University of Texas head coach Jill Sterkel included some great advice that you can read on SwimSwam here. She believes in letting kids work out their problems in a less high-stakes environment. We need to give them room to do this.

FOUR

Millennials mature later, according to Kari Ellingson, Vice President at the University of Utah. I attended a talk by her at orientation with my daughter. I wrote more about her talk here. According to Ellingson, “It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28.” It’s no wonder they can’t handle the many demands of laundry, getting their own food, studying, etc. Maybe our kids are not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of college at age 18?

What can we do to help our kids be prepared for success in college? What do you think are the reasons why so many kids fail in college? I’d love to get your feedback.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

Why September is really the start of the new year

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The end of August with the season changing.

Most people think about New Year’s as the time make changes and list their resolutions. But after years of being a parent–and a swim mom–I believe the true new year begins at the end of summer and start of the new school year.

It’s a motivating time to look back on the relaxing fun summer and how we can transition back into our busy schedules. What worked last year–and what didn’t? Even with the kids out of the house, I still feel a sense of urgency coming into September. What am I going to do differently? What can I do to be better? What projects am I ready to undertake?

In swimming, September was that time when the kids started fresh. They talked about goal setting with their coaches. They worked on stroke technique. They got back into the water after having a few weeks off.

I wrote a few tips for swim parents for SwimSwam about how to make the most out of the new season. I think the tips can be used for us in our busy lives and our kids’ academics, too. There’s lots that works in the pool that can be applied to life.

With a new season approaching, it’s a great time to reflect as a swim parent on how the last season went and what we’d like to change. Was the schedule too hectic for your family? Do you need to cut out a few activities? Or, start a car pool or ask other parents to help?  Maybe the last season was perfect and you’re looking forward to another one just like it.

Here are a few tips to have a great swim season:

ONE
Let our kids take ownership of swimming. Ask what their goals are and make sure they are swimming because they want to. The season won’t be a good one if they are swimming to please us. This applies outside the swimming world, too. By doing things they truly enjoy they will develop their own interests to pursue the rest of their lives.

TWO

Listen more and speak less. On the drive home after a meet, let our children speak first. If we start talking and going over how they swam, they will most likely resent it. They may interpret our helpfulness and critiquing as though they’ve disappointed us.

THREE

What can you do to help the team? Ask the board or coach if there’s an area where they need help. Coaches and boards hear mostly complaints. What a welcome change to have someone offer to help.

FOUR

Be in the moment. How many times have you heard a parent say they can’t stand sitting around at a meet to watch their child swim for a few minutes? It’s all about attitude. Be grateful for those moments—before you know it they’ll be gone.

FIVE

Enjoy the community. Are there new parents you can help at meets? They may feel intimidated and a friendly smile and chat can go a long way to making them feel welcome.

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Time to get back into the water.

What are your thoughts about how to start off the new season?