I don’t suppose I’m revealing anything new to you when I tell you that your kids probably aren’t telling you the absolute truth, 100% of the time. If you’re a parent and your kid’s talking, I’m guessing you’re well aware of that fact. Sociologists and psychologists can tell you a number of reasons why they do it and suggest good ways to respond to different types of lies. Whether it’s lies about screen time or anything else, the reasons for it are well documented.
What do kids lie about?
It’s likely you’re very familiar with certain common lies that children tell:
“Yes, I’ve eaten the lunch you gave me for school” – There’s a good chance it went straight to the garbage can.
“Yes, I’ve done my homework/ I am doing my homework now” – translation: “Don’t disturb me, I’m playing my game/ calling my friend/ watching TV”
“Can I go to this movie/party? There’ll be trustworthy adults there – my friend’s parents will be with us” – (and my friend told his parents that you’d be going along too… )
And of course the classics “I’ll be on my best behaviour” and “it wasn’t me”
Creating a family culture of honesty is something we’re all keen to do. There are certain hurdles along the way that almost every parent faces though.
Lies about screen time
Some lies though are specifically screen time and computer related. They might touch on a number of different areas:
- Age – Many kids intentionally give false information about their age when trying to register accounts for social networks and other internet resources. Interestingly, many parents don’t have any problem with this behaviour.
- Quantity of screen time – especially with young children who have a poor sense of time or kids who often lie to try and get their way, it would be a bad move to rely on an honour system to track screen time. That said, even if we track the time spent on their personal device, it’s hard to know where else they have screen access (school computers, friends’ devices) if they’re not willing to be open about it.
- Types and times of online activity – from checking their phones late at night through to going on sites you’ve explicitly told them not to, there are all sorts of things your child might feel incentivised to lie about. In most cases these things can be easily verified and if necessary monitored and controlled.
Actually the most common type of lie when it comes to screen time is one of omission. That is, our children don’t actually tell us lies, they just don’t talk with us about what they’ve been up to. In this case, we’re as culpable as they are. We need to make sure that we’re regularly initiating conversations with them about the way they use technology.
What else can we do?
Show you care – Kids are still learning to find the balance between the world around them (which changes so quickly) and their own inner world (which might well be even less stable). Sometimes they lie to avoid a conflict between these two realities. They need someone they can trust and share their insecurities with. Parents are still the best option they have.
Consequences vs punishment – Sometimes kids lie because they’re afraid of punishment if the truth is found out. It would be helpful to talk to them about the difference between punishment and the natural consequences of bad decisions – like the potential effects of screen time on their health or mental health. They need to learn to recognise consequences in advance and avoid bad decisions as a result.
Healthy and reasonable rules – These will help them to be more confident and self-disciplined. Both parts are important. You’re placing boundaries to keep your child safe. At the same time, if the rules seem too strict or unreasonable, they can actually end up encouraging lies and other bad behaviour that they’re originally designed to counter. A parental control app like Kidslox is a great instrument for setting and adjusting these rules to find what works for your family.
You might also want to become a more technically advanced parent. Most kids today are technologically smarter than their parents. Maybe you feel that that’s a big ask though. It doesn’t have to be the only way though. As you’ll have noticed, most of the solutions above are grounded first and foremost in effective and frequent communication with your child. Technical wizardry not required.
Let us know down below about a lie your child told you and how you responded.