This is real! Dating adults meeting online and only texting for weeks on end…no phone calls, late night talks, or face to face getting to know you. Middle and high school students now only text. Remember pulling the phone cord as long as it would go for privacy? Or hoping the “cordless” phone batteries wouldn’t die while talking? Staying up late pouring your heart out to your BFF or latest crush? This isn’t happening. I can’t help but wonder: what will be the impact on having healthy relationships in the future? Learning how to clearly communicate feelings and the innermost experiences of our hearts is SO needed.
Cell phones came on the scene fast, without rules or social “norms” to guide us. I recently found a campaign started by parents to urge them ALL to agree that cell phones won’t be purchased or allowed among their teens until freshmen year. Other parents lamented wanting to be able to reach their child in an emergency or if they needed to coordinate transportation after practices events etc.
The other issue on the scene with cell phone use and social media is cyberbullying. Try taking a cell phone from a teen as a consequence and their head just may explode. To not have a cell phone is social death…no invites, left out of conversations because they have no idea what happened online, etc. Cyberbullying used to be you had a weekend to recover from rumors or an evening free on a school night to have a reprieve. Now it can last 24 hrs a day 7 days a week. To insult someone you don’t just get ignored at school, you get blocked and excluded from group messages or social media. Blocked means you can’t communicate with them or see their posts…yet they can post about you for everyone else to see and join in mocking you. Or everyone else gets to talk and you are excluded from what’s going on.
So what can we do?
- Monitor cell phone use and make sure you are friends with your teens and have access to their password. They will be mad, yes. But if this becomes the norm and at an early age, it will lessen the blow. Remember worrying that mom and dad would pick up the phone or walk nearby and hear your conversation? Teens need this accountability.
- House rules: pick a time at least an hour before bed that all cell phones, laptops, etc are plugged in in mom or dad’s bedroom. (Hint: not the kitchen where they can get it once you’re in bed ??). Want to go to bed early? Make the rule it has to be in there when you go to bed or set an alarm for their curfew to go off and you can check on them.
- Have a set hour for “phone free” or technology free time. Guess what? Of the teens I work with when this is suggested they actually WANT it! Yes, teens are busy and independent but they still crave that relationship and connection. One family decided between 6 and 7 every night. Homework, talking, dishes or just reading together are allowed but no technology! (Parents…we have to too! No cell phones, Facebook, or your favorite show ?)
Technology isn’t going away. It’s making parenting harder, and more importantly, affecting our children’s healthy social and emotional development.
Challenge: sit down with your parenting partner, then your kids, and discuss how technology is affecting your family. Start with kids and teens by genuinely seeking to understand their views on how they are impacted by your (yep…mom and dads) technology use. Then seek to understand what’s important to them in having access to their phones or social media. After understanding everyone’s needs and concerns seek first in asking what rules or guidelines they suggest for your family. Why ask them? It shows you value their opinion but also when they have input you may be surprised that they want guidelines too AND you are less likely to have a teen tantrum.