When you add up the hours spent watching TV, playing video games or surfing the internet, it seems that kids are spending more time on screens than in school. In France, for example, in the age group between 1 and 6 years, digital consumption has tripled since 2011, going from 2 hours to more than 6 hours per week.It is also increasing in the rest of the world.
Faced with this situation, most fathers and mothers are concerned. The invasive presence of screens in the home has become an important source of tension in the relationship between parents and children. Hungry for advice on how to limit screen time, which they consider excessive, parents nevertheless face contradictions that are difficult to overcome: they themselves spend an average of four and a half hours a day reading their emails, browsing the news of their social networks and watching streaming series.«Today, depression among adolescents is not only much more frequent, but more severe, with greater symptoms and a greater suicidal risk»
Not only quantity, but also quality
This management of screen time is compounded by doubts and deep concerns about the nature of the digital content consulted by their children. More generally, parents feel a sense of loss of authority as knowledge transmission models change with digital technology; adolescents are often more competent than their parents in the use of virtual goods.
However, the harmful effects of screens on children are widely documented in the academic literature: impacts on physical and mental health (loss of sleep, being overweight, difficulty concentrating, etc.), on school performance and on relationships interpersonal. Instead, its consequences on parents are rather hidden, although they generate stress, low self-esteem and loss of confidence in their personal effectiveness as educators, responsible for the well-being and future of their children.
The challenges of parental well-being
Initially focused on the medical field, the notion of well-being has spread to entire areas of human existence, including activities such as sports, leisure and food. However, defining what well-being is relatively complex.
Specifically, academic papers in economics and positive psychology distinguish two approaches to well-being. Objective wellness focuses on quality of life. It is measured with indicators such as the poverty rate, the level of education or health risks. Subjective well-being refers to the evaluation of one’s own existence by each individual and is expressed as “feeling happy”. Subjective well-being articulates a hedonic and a eudemonic well-being:
The first fluctuates based on specific experiences that generate pleasure and has three dimensions: the satisfaction that the individual experiences with his life, positive emotional feelings, such as pleasure, and the absence of negative feelings.
The second is deeper and more lasting, and is based on participation in meaningful activities that promote the development of skills, self-esteem and social connections.
In the domestic sphere, well-being is little investigated, despite the fact that the family is perceived by young people as a source of fulfillment and tranquility. At the same time, the media broadcast this difficulty in being a “good father” and point out the increasing complexity of the conditions for exercising paternity within the home with the advent of digital technology, undoubtedly legitimizing the need to rethink this paternity at home.
To ensure their well-being, fathers and mothers use technological tools: parental control software, automatic storage of children’s online activities,personal data protection. These devices aim to protect your children in an automated way without having the feeling of having to become spies or bodyguards.
These solutions are relevant to parental well-being because they tend to erase negative feelings from adults, but they often lead to ultimatums, negotiations, and even conflict. Feeling observed in their private space, adolescents adopt avoidance strategies that establish relationships of mistrust and, ultimately, affect the relationship between parents and children.
Therefore, it seems essential to communicate in a two-phase process. First of all, children must be encouraged to share their knowledge and skills to create a bond around the screens. To promote a harmonious coexistence with screens at home, parents have no choice but to review conventional transmission models. Above all, accept that the transmission of skills can be upward, with children capable of explaining the functionalities of digital tools.
Once the technological barrier has been overcome, parents must assume the responsibility of educating their children in the rules of the digital world and in the use of different screens, in particular controlling the content displayed. This exchange of information and knowledge about digital technology should contribute to their hedonic well-being.
Secondly, it is about communicating to regulate the practices applicable to all family members. The introduction of precise rules (such as prohibiting the use of screens at the table or in the bedroom) and the limitation of connection times can be discussed as a family to achieve balanced use adapted to each age.
In this way, parents – often excessively connected – are invited to reflect on their own practices and the behavior models they represent in the eyes of their children. Implementing these educational measures accepted by both parents and children is, without a doubt, a way of promoting well-being.
The omnipresence of screens in the home translates into an excess of digital activities that are rather individual and not conducive to sharing and sharing. Therefore, it is about reinforcing the eudemonic well-being of parents by promoting joint activities around the screens to reduce tensions and reinstate the digital in its role as mediator of social ties.
Another possibility is to spend time off the screen doing activities that guarantee well-being. The health crisis has taught us a lot about the ability of families to reinvent relationships at home and build a harmonious bubble between parents and children. The resulting periods of seclusion prompted most families to resume activities within the home.
Retired to the domestic sphere, which temporarily became the only space for sociability, parents and children (re)learned to spend quality time together. Board games, baking, sports or manual activities, all of them conducive to sharing, for the transmission of skills and a source of positive emotions and a feeling of personal efficacy.
Reconciling well-being and parenthood is a real challenge today, given the many pressures and social contradictions. However, there are many solutions and well-being seems to involve regaining control of parenting, but also finding a balance between digital and non-digital activities to avoid multiplying very ephemeral pleasures that, in the long term, do not necessarily make children happy.