Your teen needed a laptop for school, so you bought it. He needed a phone to keep in touch with you, so after a half-hour argument with him at the wireless store, a “phone” became an iPhone 6. He has an iPad Air because, after you told him it wasn’t in the budget, he spent the weekend with his dad, and voila! He has an iPad.
Now, every time you look at your son, he has a screen in front of his face, barely audible text notifications going off at all hours and he’s on social media sites you’ve never heard of. Suddenly, his use of technology has gone past school work and into a strange kind of secrecy.
I believe the most important thing you can do is open up regular dialogue about your child’s online experiences and approach it with genuine, open curiosity.
Technology is empowering and necessary for kids and for parents. But the longer I work with families in my practice, the more I see technology becoming problematic for them. Think about your child’s smart phone. It’s a very complex device that can be used for good or bad. It’s a communication tool and a wonderful research and study tool. For the kid who struggles to focus on homework, however, it’s a chronic distraction machine—an ADD machine, if you will. It’s a camera and video camera that can broadcast your child’s mistakes and poor choices to the world in seconds. It’s a weapon for bullying and a source of anxiety for kids who are bullied. It’s a reason your son doesn’t get enough sleep at night. It’s a pornography machine at the touch of the wrong link. It’s a device that can expose your young child to things you don’t want her to see. Ever.
How are your kids using technology? Do you know what they’re looking at when they’re curled up on the sofa for five hours with their phones six inches from their face? When you ask them who they’re talking to online, do you get a one-word, snippy answer, if any answer at all? It’s tricky territory for parents. Your teen knows more about the online world than you probably ever will, and it can quickly become another way for your child to behave defiantly with you. So how do you even talk to your child about their online life, interests and safety?
Immobilized Parents: “I don’t know what to do about it, so I’ll do nothing.”
Although they may be wizards with setting up devices and finding cool apps, most kids do not have the emotional intelligence to be able to manage and understand everything they’re seeing online. That’s why parents need to be involved.
Increasingly, though, I see parents becoming immobilized around their kids’ use of technology. They don’t know what to do or where to start, so they do nothing. It’s normal for parents to feel “frozen” and helpless about the online world of their child.
I met a parent recently who had discovered her young son had been watching videos online of people playing Russian Roulette. She was lucky. Her son brought up the subject, instead of keeping it to himself, because he was disturbed by what he saw. Mom felt immobilized. What should she do? Take his phone away? Restrict access? Should she talk to him about what else he’s watching online? Without a clear option, should she do nothing?
Remaining immobilized around your child’s technology use isn’t effective or empowering for you as a parent, and it doesn’t help your child. I believe the most important thing you can do is open up regular dialogue about your child’s online experiences and approach it with genuine, open curiosity. Many kids remain secretive about what they’re doing and seeing online because:
This is why it’s important for parents to engage with their kids about what’s happening online for them. It shouldn’t be a secret in the home. Here are some ways for parents to manage their child’s online life and open dialogue about it that I’ve found to be effective.
7 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Online Life
There’s nothing more powerful than parental influence in a child’s life. But technology holds a seductive type of power for adults and kids that can overwhelm parental influence without us even being aware of it. The antidote to this can be one or two sincere questions that you ask your child and a willingness and courage to allow for whatever the answer is.
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This is a wonderful article. I have a 13 year old just starting out with the technology that we, as adults have been using for years. I am hoping to make the best possible choices as far as boundaries and accountability for my son, so this article makes it easier to navigate.
Wanted to see if I could get any feedback regarding technology. I have a 15 year old son that has had multiple instances where he has abused technology. This is on a computer, phone, game, and tablet. We are constantly having to tighten parental controls on all of our devices, set passwords, and install software that tracks what he does. We have taken technology away, had him earn things back, and our next step is to give his game away as opposed to returning it to him. Kids now have so many ways of manipulating technology that it makes it difficult for a parent to keep them accountable. We talk to him and try to make him understand that we want him to have the freedoms of a phone and computer – but every time he is given these freedoms he abuses them (deleted messages, nude photos (GF), porn). We get the constant excuse that “everyone looks at (porn) or does these types of things” – “I’m just being a normal kid”. We try to instill some type of respect that he needs to have for himself, his parents, and friends (girlfriends) – but he just see’s it as us trying to control his life. I know it is hard at times for our teens to manage the temptation of so many things they can access through technology. If you have any suggestions on managing technology back into this situation it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
It sounds like you have really
been on top of establishing what is and is not okay regarding technology usage
with your son. You have also been holding him accountable when you find that he
is not meeting your expectations. You really are doing what you can here.
Unfortunately, doing everything you can does not ensure that your son will make
the right choice. As long as you continue to be consistent with giving http://www.empoweringparents.com/Consequences-Dont-Work-for-My-Teen-Here-Why-and-How-to-Fix-It.php and continue to discuss what he can do to resist temptation,
you are managing what you can control in the situation. Beyond that, your son
is the only one that can make the right choice. I know this is a frustrating
situation. We appreciate you reaching out to us for guidance. Take care.
We also have a 15 yr old son that cannot keep any of his technological devices like he'd like because we have to keep taking them away.
He abuses them also but mostly linked to drugs and substance abuse but also always deleting texts so we can't see.
Social media is so dangerous for our son due to his self-destructive behaviors.
He is very angry and defiant about us controlling his social media and always asking questions. He claims he will just use others iPhones and iPads etc. We can't control that but we can control social media in our home.
He also tells us we shouldn't be in "his business!" It's a constant battle we are very weary of fighting. Would love to hear any advice from parents with same experiences too. Sometimes I wished the earth would just open up and swallow all forms of social media. It's hurting so many of our teens!