Managing Homework, My Space and Facebook

Dear Sharon,

We want to start the school year off right and have tried to set a schedule for our kids to do their homework that will keep them up to date, and that will keep them away from cell phones and television. However, we now find that we are unable to control the computer and their Facebook and My Space interactions which have turned out to be more distracting than the others. What do we do? Do you know how we can control this? We are computer fools next to our children and haven’t a clue as to how to get a handle on this. They are using computers for research and for typing papers, and they are also visiting these sights and we are unable to stop them.

Dear Parents,

Helping a child juggle their social life and the demands of school is an age-old problem for parents. The internet is making this dilemma even more complicated. I have known many “computer fool” parents who have figured it out but it has usually taken some time and effort. Here are some thoughts that might prove helpful.

People of all ages seem to have trouble using their computers without getting pulled into an almost limitless number of enjoyable distractions. I find myself answering e-mails or “surfing the web” when I fully intended to focus on something else when I first turned on my computer. As Facebook and My Space are websites that provide access to friends with a simple click it must be hard for a young person to choose homework over a “quick hello” that invariably turns into something more.

I assume from your question that you have given permission to your child to have a Face book or My Space account. If you have not because of age or other factors there are ways you can block access to these sites fairly easily.

Most parents give permission to use My Space or Facebook because they realize, (usually after quite a bit of encouragement from their child) that this form of socializing is important to them. (Building successful relationships with friends is an essential part of most young ones happiness and development). There is cause for concern and parental supervision but communicating through the internet seems to be working well for many young people in this generation. Some children even have a good sense of how to successfully juggle these web sites and their homework responsibly.

Even if a child seems to be handling school and internet talks well a parent might want to “keep an eye on things.” I often suggest that parents with concerns about this issue can choose to sit in the same room or near their child while they are completing their studies. Some parents I know make sure to place computers in family areas or within view of adult eyes. Even if a parent is reading or doing some of their own work the presence of a caring adult can offer personal support that helps get homework completed as efficiently as possible.

When a child is not doing well in school I often suggest that parents spend an increased amount of time with them. They might begin by having some fun with their son or daughter and then talking as calmly as possible about what is going on in school.

It is rare that computer time on Facebook and My Space pages are the only factors contributing to slipping grades. Sometimes a student might be having a particularly hard time with a teacher or subject and may need extra help from parents or other resources. A student might also be distraught over a difficult academic experience, a rejection by peers or even a possible romance. They might need some quality time with a parent to sort these issues through.

While checking for more information about their child’s well being Mom and/or Dad can also talk about homework. Sometimes children can work with a parent to come up with solutions about how to handle the distractions of the internet. If not parents can make it clear that assignments are a priority and if it is too hard to work on the computer and stay away from My Space then the internet might need to be disconnected. (My internet savvy son has advised me that this is not difficult to do – in some cases a simple plug can be temporarily removed).

Disciplining ourselves to use the internet wisely is difficult for many of us, good luck as you help your child with the challenge!