The emergence of the ever-connected phone has been sprung upon us, with little preparation for the management of the phone, and the consequences of poor management. Growing concerns about the influence of social media, the access to inappropriate content, and the nature of unmonitored and unrestricted text conversations have many parents worried and concerned.

Research suggests that many of you check your child’s phones, and computers, to examine websites visited and text trails. However, not enough parents do this. And far more do not do it with consistency.

The Real Problem: Technology Evolved at Light Speed. You Must Catch Up.

This is a real problem. Most of you reading this article have good kids… I am sure. However, many good kids are eventually swayed by the pull of peers, the allure of the forbidden, and the curiosity of the unknown. Even more problematic is the more challenging, oppositional, or defiant child who will pursue the forbidden with great intensity and effort. These kids will work hard to get around casual limits and do so with success.

In either case, the consequences can be devastating. And yes, life-changing. In my office, I see this, not as a statistic, but as a reality affecting good families, with solid values.

I find many parents have a thought process is that not current with the evolution of technology. In my view, you must catch up. You must stay ahead of this from a management perspective. For many of you, there is a tendency to allow too much autonomy early on, because kids rarely push that hard on limits in the initial stages of having their first smartphone. The ten-year-old with a new phone often doesn’t know there is forbidden content and if they do, it’s not of interest. We can get lax and develop a false sense of comfort and ease, as occasional scans of the phone reveal little concern.

All of this changes with age and a bit of time. They mature, their interests change, their peers send them information and they start to connect more intensely. Their role models change, and they may or may not be healthy pointers for them. Social media starts to provide instant entertainment, and the phone can easily demand their repeated attention when you are nowhere near.

What You Don’t Know…Will Hurt Your Kids. So You Must Know.

Familiar apps that once seemed healthy, suddenly offer a new feature that invites them into the forbidden. New apps that ‘everyone has’ seem innocent enough, as you can find nothing there. You are checking ‘history’ on their phones, and find nothing of concern. When they listen to music, they are always plugged in, so you assume that it’s not that bad.

Yet, behavior is changing in your home. Is it just those hormone-driven teenage years? Is it normal?

If the ‘new normal’ keeps moving the line of vulgarity, violence, and disrespect…are you going to let it define your home, your values, and your limits?

As your child ages, and moves through those teenage years, your influence begins to dwindle. That’s just a fact. However, as others have more influence, you have a voice. You have some power. You can make a difference. You can still choose the normal…for your home.

But you can’t do that if you don’t know what is happening. I find the ‘new normal’ communications for many teens to be remarkably disrespectful of adults and filled with easy-flowing profanity if we know what is happening. Equally problematic is the degree to which many teenage boys find easy access to a level of increasingly realistic violent video games, with many parents unaware of the impact of such repeated violence.

In next week’s article, I will lay out a game plan for your home. For now, know that the secret here will be to monitor your child’s electronics, and to do so with much more effectiveness and consistency. With this thought in mind, I recall a parent tell me last year that it is “just too much work…I got enough on my plate.” Well, so be it, if that is where you stand. My game plan will not apply to their family. However, it is a child’s future that stands at risk. I hope you are on board…as there is more to come.