“What were we thinking? They’re bonded to their phones!
“Relationships? You’ve got to be kidding!”
As we sat around the room talking about parenting issues, the phone became the topic of conversation. The stories came tumbling out–some with feelings of frustration–some with utter sadness–others with fear and remorse.
“My daughter had someone very close to her die. Sitting at the lunch table with her best friend she shared her grief. Instead of offering sympathy, her friend turned around and asked her to watch a YouTube video totally unrelated to the situation. What my daughter heard from this friend was ‘what is on my phone is more important than you’.”
“I want my child to have access to a phone in case of emergencies, but it is taking over his life. If he isn’t texting, he’s watching videos. He’s consumed.”
“Sixth grade girls are taking nude selfies and sending them to the boy they want to be special friends with in my son’s class. It’s children sharing child pornography! What are we going to do, put them all in jail?”
Most parents never dreamed of the possibilities of potential harm that could come from a simple device intended to be a means of communication. What was supposed to be a “Can you come get me, practice is over,” has become a death wish on relationships and communication.
Instead of sharing friendship and being part of others’ lives in deep relationship our tweens and teens are texting things they would never say in person. There is no relationship–only transactions without voice inflection, tone, or body language. Our kids are missing out on how to have real relationships that will be invaluable in the workplace, in dating, and in marriage.
The hard part is that we give our kids phones as a birthday or Christmas present, or maybe we have the child buy it with their own money, but most of us don’t think about putting stipulations around it. We don’t anticipate the problems that it can create–the unforeseen danger that we are bringing into our child’s world.
So am I saying don’t give your kid a phone? Not necessarily.
Teens need opportunity to learn to use devices wisely–and what better way than under your supervision and coaching. It’s an opportunity to help them mature and build trust with you as a parent.
The thing we need to remember is that even if the phone was a gift or purchased by the child, we as the parent need to be monitoring the device. We need to be the person who determines if they are mature enough to handle it. If the kid is accessing inappropriate websites or sending hate-filled messages–then maybe they need a break from their phone.
One of the moms in my group sent me a copy of a contract she and her husband wrote for their teen before they gave her the phone. It outlined the stipulations of use and payment.
That’s an awesome example of pre-parenting!
These parents anticipated the potential problems and made sure there was no doubt the expectation in advance.
But what do you do when you’ve already given your child the phone and now problems are surfacing?
Let your child know that you made a mistake in giving him the phone without prior warning. Let him know that “you didn’t know what you didn’t know” and now that you do know the potential dangers, you want to reset the guidelines and make sure they know what to do in case they stumble across something they don’t know how to handle.
Push the Reset Button.
- Outline and communicate the new rules.
- Let your child know why you are pushing the Reset Button.
- Listen to your child’s concerns and modifying the rules (if necessary).
- Follow-through on action as needed.
Anticipating problems before they happen obviously helps keep our kids safe, but once the unanticipated enter our teen’s world, we need to be brave enough to negotiate a reset discussion.
Numbers 5:5-8 ESV
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the Lord for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him.
It probably won’t be easy. We’ll probably make mistakes. But failing to confess our part in not protecting our kids and choosing not to start-over with a new set of rules allows our frustrations to spin out of control as we watch our kids head down a path that will only bring harm to their future relationships.
Dare you to bravely push the reset button when you see danger ahead.
“Let go…and let God”,