In the last two articles, (Read them here) we discussed the importance of awareness in managing technology in all its forms. Many parents are caught missing the threats from their child’s phone. These are not irresponsible parents. It’s often that there is a mistaken sense of trusting that there is nothing obvious…so there is no reason for concern. There is also a ‘buy in’ to a teen’s comments that “mom…you gotta trust me.”
I say yes. Do trust your child. But trust that kids will be kids. Teens will be teens. And…that peers will eventually have more social influence than do parents.
From these realities, we can then begin to set up a realistic, pharmacy-safe game plan for managing their phones.
The Game Plan
It’s not your phone. It’s our phone that you can use.
This is an important first step. You need to establish that the phone is theirs to use, as long as it is done responsibly. If they argue this point, simply put the phone back in your pocket and ask them to then go get their phone…if they don’t believe you. Very quickly…they will come to see the trust of this.
It IS your phone. And they can use it because you provide it to them. This starting point establishes that it is YOUR DEVICE to manage and control.
Many teens will want to argue and fight about this and the verbal exchanges are futile. Simply demonstrate your control over the phone, by shutting it down if necessary, and they will soon get it. It is critical to abandon trying to control your child directly. It is not sustainable. Instead, establish that the phone is mom and dad’s device…and thus yours to ultimately control.
We will monitor your activities and your apps on our phones.
As part of the game plan, inform your kids that you will monitor and do so closely. Because the treats come from so many directions, it is critical to take the piece seriously. Early on, simply inspections daily can work.
However, as your child moves into the more social world and is interested in social media, the playing field changes dramatically. Many applications allow for social influences (i.e., peers, unknown adults, unhealthy role models) to speak to your child in ways that quickly escalate beyond your awareness. As this happens, you will likely need software to monitor your child’s phone. Always be transparent, and let your children know that ‘Mom…Dad…is watching and monitoring, like it or not.’
Disappearing content is not allowed on your phone
In the world of teenagers, Snap Chat and similar apps are very common. Why? Because anything can be said, at any time about anyone. And mom and dad have no idea. Also, obscene photos are exchanged, and instantly deleted…as if it never happened.
Of course, it did happen. The ugly words were exchanged. The disrespect to a teacher did happen. Certain children or peers get targeted. Little is positive in these disappearing conversations.
The stories that could be told of what is exchanged on these apps could fill a small library, and none of it would you support. Thus, it is critical to do what most parents do not do. Be clear about how to responsibly protect your child by refusing to approve of any disappearing app on their phone. Truly, it’s an ounce of prevention to get a pound of cure!
Profanity, vulgarity, rudeness, and disrespect come with the ’48-hour rule.’
Let your kids know that any rudeness, ugliness, disrespect, or profanity will result in a 48-hour loss of their phone. It is little wonder that we see and hear more disturbing language because often we are tacitly approving of this. How? Because we allow our children to talk this way incessantly via text and chatting. The ugly language becomes second nature and is part of their thought process. To stop this, we must take a role in controlling the parts we can control…and that is their phone.
Be willing to institute the ’48 hour rule’ anytime you find unwanted language. Quickly your teens will learn to manage their conversations and keep within the rules.
Is this all you can do? Of course not, but it is a beginning. Be willing to assume control early on, and this will inevitably be easier for you and your family as the year progresses.