“I need to let my son manage his game time now so he won’t go crazy gaming in college.”
“If I limit my daughter’s social media she will want it more.”
“My child tells me that they will “die” if I don’t get them a smart phone.”
The ‘forbidden fruit’ theory says if you limit an activity that your child desperately wants they will want it even more. While this may sound true on the surface, science, and most experienced moms, won’t back it up. Brain science tells us that the forbidden fruit theory is a myth particularly when it comes to tech overuse. It is more serious than a teen power struggle or ‘war of the wills’. Because of their sensitivity to dopamine and their immature frontal cortex, teens are not easily able to put the brakes on when tempted with tech overindulgence. They are not able to:
- consistently make good judgements (gaming till 3am)
- understand future consequences (‘This photo of my cleavage will still be around in 5 years for my first employer to look at.’)
- control impulses to dive into novelty (surfing porn)
- take relationship risks (hurting a friend online)
Parents may think that if they allow the forbidden fruit, then their kids will get it out of their system, outgrow it or become disinterested and move on. That is far from the truth! What they are doing is reinforcing neuronal pathways making those habits even stronger and harder to control. Remember habits and activities greatly shape your child’s young brain and create lifelong patterns. A child who has developed many interests and hobbies will be happier and lead a more well-balanced life. As he matures he will not be as tempted by “forbidden fruit”. He will develop self-esteem and confidence as he finds joy in other activities; digital fruit will not be his only thing.
The son who is allowed to game out of control in high school will be the same teen who games too much in college with the added risk of even dropping out. The daughter who is building her identity on social media now will grow to depend on it for her social confidence in the future. The 12 year old who is begging for a smart phone now may be robbed of new experiences and a lesson in delayed gratification that could prove to be much more priceless than any phone will ever be in the future. If they are going to ‘die without it’ chances are they don’t need it!
Love your child enough to set boundaries and set limits and use the most powerful tool in our ‘mom tool box’: be positive. Instead of handing out forbidden fruit, explore healthy fun ways for your child to build a strong emotional foundation. Strong attachments to their families creates more life success than strong attachments to their devices. These important, impressionable, developmental years are full of opportunity and they can’t be replaced!
Melanie Hempe, Families Managing Media