Hi everyone … 8 more days of school here in Big D.  Maybe some of your kids are already out, depending upon where you live.  Summer can mean lots of free time … lots of “screen” time.  Jody continues with her terrific tips on technology and our tween/teens.  Enjoy!

Thanks for walking the road with me :)  -K

Teens and Technology

Last month my goal was simply to alert you to the realization that technology is the new battle ground with our teens.  This month I want to address a few more specifics within that topic.

As a prayerful, proactive parent, it is important to put up boundaries to protect your teen. In a wireless world that has infiltrated our lives, it is imperative to seek godly wisdom and discernment in establishing boundaries with your teens.

Of course, parenting is not easy, especially in this increasingly complex world of technology.  If it was, then I would present you five reasonable, bullet-pointed strategies to turn your teens into media-responsible young people who respect your rules and don’t resent you one teensy tiny bit because they realize that you are just trying to help them.

If only parenting worked that way.  But every child is different.  Every family has its own unique blend.  And technology is one of the more difficult subjects to approach and ‘get your arms around’.

So rather than give you five bullet-proof bullet-points, let me simply offer you some things to prayerfully consider.  Discuss them with your spouse first, adjust them to fit your family and your teen(s), and use other inputs – such as others who contribute to this wonderful MOAT blog – as you adjust your strategies.  Always remember, parenting is on-going.

There is no Walmart of Wisdom that has everything you are looking for in one easy shopping stop.  You’re going to have to keep looking around at all times for the best deal.

Of course, the Bible is free and its pearls of wisdom are priceless. I would start there.

Last month I recommended a few general strategies, such as learning technology yourself first so you can better educate your teen.  I also recommended being the pack leader ala Cesar Milan The Dog Whisperer and using relationship as the anchor to your approach with your teen.

All of those sound nice, right?  But what do they look like?  Let’s open these up some, shall we.

As I shared, I’m a dinosaur who is continually learning about technology.  You younger parents probably know a lot more about technology, but it is still important to continually keep up because as we know, it changes daily.  Remember that giving up is simply not an option.

However, as you are learning, you may become more confused than ever.  Especially with phones.  Wow.  I remember when I first tried to switch to my husband’s Blackberry and nearly lost my mind. Now I’m trying to learn how to use yet another smartphone, and I don’t feel very smart.  Yet teens use these smartphones as though they are extensions of their very body.  And these phones can do it all: play music, send texts, take pictures, surf the internet, download movies, and upload videos of themselves that they just took and publish it to their MySpace or Facebook page.  Which isn’t always a good thing…

Faced with this, my initial response might be to give up at times.  I feel blessed that I didn’t have to deal with this as heavily when my kids were teens.  But then again, there have always been difficult issues that parents of teens deal with daily.

One of the things I tried to cultivate with my children was honesty and dialogue, which never goes out-of -date because it is relationships that are the heart of parenting.

With technology being as ubiquitous as it is now, the bottom line is you must be aware of what is on your child’s phone.  That means having to discuss this with your teen.

The reality may be that they spend more time with technology than they do with you.  In January 2010 the Kaiser Family Foundation released a study of teens and pre-teens that revealed that the average 12-18 year old spends 7.5 hours per day using media – and that figure does not include texting!  The numbers only increase when multi-tasking with media is factored in, such as listening to their ipod while using the internet.  The numbers are even higher for teens who are still too young to drive but are actively seeking to show their independence from their parents.  Worst of all, this is all happening seven days a week!

Where do you find yourself on this continuum of teens’ media usage?  If your teens are abusing it, you must rein them in immediately.  Deep down, teens want you to be the parent and want you to give them boundaries that they are unable to enforce themselves.

 The Kaiser study revealed that teens with the heaviest usage of media displayed, in general, the lowest grades, lowest self-esteem, and the most troubles at home, in school, and with the law.  Love is spelled T-I-M-E, and it begins with you.  You cannot wait for them to initiate.  And don’t back down to their bark.  Be the pack leader.

Of course, you may be
encouraged and saying, “My kids are nowhere near those statistics.”  Good!  But do you know what is on their phone?  Who they text?  What they download?  What music they listen to when you’re not around?  I am not trying to scare you or encourage you to immediately confiscate all their gadgets for inspection.  But you do need to know.

Sexting and cyber-bullying are growing out of control.  Recently, a new smartphone ad was pulled by Microsoft because one scene in the commercial outraged parents because it hinted that this phone would make sexting easier.  Sad but true.

So check their Facebook.  Periodically ask to check their texts.  And know their passwords for websites.  Look at their recent places they’ve visited on their computer.  Will your teen like this?  Not in the least.  So you must not approach this with a spirit of “Gotcha!” but with respect for their privacy combined with a clear, firm explanation of the rules in your home.

If you want other guidelines in place, many websites such as commonsensemedia.org have family media agreements that you can print off and use. Or look them over and make your own that is tailored specifically to your family.  Or just discuss the rules and the reasoning behind them with your teens.  (Also with your young ones, who are using technology more and more these days).

In discussing things with teens, it is always useful to anticipate issues before they crop up as problems.  Is this always possible?  No.  But no matter the timing, it is crucial that you speak to them with respect.  Still be firm.  But talk to them like adults.  Teens want to make good decisions.  So inform them openly.

For example, teach them about the myth of anonymity on the internet.  Print out a study for them that explains how everything they do leaves a digital footprint that colleges and companies are using increasingly more in their selection of applicants.

Developmentally, teens are in the process of growing wisdom as they make decisions. As parents, it is our job to guide them to develop and grow in godly wisdom.

Talk to your teens about how marketing agencies target them actively as a result of the nearly $200 billion American teens spend each year.  Show them how companies seek to create a “culture of cool” in order to drive business with unsuspecting teens.  Your teen may even enjoy feeling like they see behind the trick.

Finally, meet your teens half-way.  Unless you are a parent who uses Facebook 24/7 (hmmm…), for you, technology is more of a tool used to gather information.  But for your teen it represents community.  Many shy teens find that they can connect more easily through the computer.  Should this replace face-to-face communication?  Of course not!  My point is only that you need to consider all the factors concerning technology when addressing it with your teens.

 Let’s not simply demonize technology.  It has tremendous benefits: from allowing creative, personal expression to encouraging social networking to a means of learning new information about the world.  Plus, it is not going anywhere!  So embrace the world your child is growing up in today, and teach them how to use it wisely.

Balance is the key. Put appropriate boundaries on what your kids can and cannot do with electronic communication and media. Have boundaries on times when communication is done the ‘old-fashioned way’ by talking directly with one another such as at meal-time and in the car.

In my books on Christian Charm Course  I show girls how to cultivate Christ-like communication in an electronic age. With texting and social networks, our kids today are losing some of the ability to ‘read each other’ in their communication. As a result, we are seeing more aggression, cyber-bullying, and conflict. Two of the skills I present are how to communicate and how to resolve conflicts biblically.

In my next blog, I will present suggestions on aggression, bullying, cyber-bullying, and how to be a proactive parent by bonding with your kids through boundaries. Until then, have a warm, wonderful SONshine summer with Jesus and your families!

“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”(Psalm 25:4-5)

{Jody Capehart is married to Paul who is in his 39th year of playing in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. They have 3 grown children and 3 grandchildren and are active members at Stonebriar Community Church. Jody is an educator, author and speaker with nearly 40 years experience. She is the author or co-author of over 15 books, with additional books coming out in 2010 including Bonding with Your Teens through Boundaries with June Hunt. Jody currently serves with June Hunt as Director of the Hope Biblical Training Program at Hope for the Heart in the Hope Center in Plano, Texas. Her interests include family, reading, gardening and cooking.}

Pin It on Pinterest