By the time the average American kid is 12 years old, they’ve got an iPod, a smartphone and a Facebook profile. So it makes sense that many parents are turning to “digital grounding” when their kids misbehave. But according to Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, contributor to the CBS Early Show and child and adolescent psychologist, “the punishment has to fit the crime.”
For example, she says, don’t threaten to delete your child’s Facebook page, which may make them feel as if “the world is ending.” (Please, I think if my Facebook page got deleted I’d cry for a day, too.) Instead, you should change their password so they can’t access their social network for a specified amount of time. Hartstein also suggests “friending” your kids on Facebook so you’re able to monitor their activity.
Most parents have no problem banning TV or video games in order to reprimand their children but would be much more hesitant to keep tweens and teens from their phones, since cell phone use makes life easier for the whole family. But Regina Lewis, a consumer advisor at AOL, says there are ways to customize your child’s cell phone plan that will allow them only to receive calls from and make calls to family members, blocking calls from friends. If your child’s been really bad, you can also turn off their ability to text message, which Lewis says might cost $5/month. For the service, that is. And $50/month in co-pays for therapy.
So would you do it? And how hard is digital grounding to enforce? I’ve grounded my 4-year-old from TV for a week more times than I can count, but each and every time her punishment has been lifted before the week was out. Which is okay, I think, since to a 4-year-old, a day without Dinosaur Train feels like an eternity. (Besides, if criminals can get out early for good behavior, why can’t kids?)
I understand Hartstein’s sentiment about the punishment needing to fit the crime, and I think it’s one of the most important aspects of grounding a kid. When I was in high school, I took my father’s truck for a joy ride without permission – and without a driver’s license. I immiediately confessed, which seemed the smart thing to do, since I knew a neighbor saw me in the big rig my Dad drove for his business with our last name emblazoned on the side. Plus, I felt guilty and wanted to let my parents know I knew I’d mad a bad choice. Instead of lauding my bravery, my mother pulled me out of dance lessons – for life! Something I never really got over.
What have you learned from having to punish your children?