#whatisahashtag #bornbeforecellphones #raisingkidsishardwork
by Stacy Mattheis
In a world that moves at warp speed, with new apps for your iPhone coming out daily and hashtags, throwbacks, honesty posts and other acronyms — I’m still learning. How do we stay in front of our teens’ technology? I bought my first cell phone when my first child was born, but kids today are gifted with phones as early as 12 years old. A cell phone used to be a phone; I could use it in the dire cold of winter when my minivan stalled on the highway. It only had a keypad and speaker…fairly archaic in today’s technological terms. Now our kids have mini computers in their pockets…not just phones… and this new parenting challenge landed in our laps before Dr. Dobson could mail a newsletter on how to manage them. So we dug our feet in and moved as slow as we could through these new waters. Our oldest didn’t get his first phone until he had a job to help pay for the bill. When we wrapped our heads around the Internet capabilities of iPods we were satisfied as long as it was contained to a Wi-Fi network. Basically we could control when and where he had access and set some parameters on what he put on it.
The cell phone opened a whole new set of challenges with open data on something called a 3G network. Trust me…I have had to investigate a whole new vocabulary to understand half of what these techy words mean!! I’ve heard other parents talk about having the same challenges. We allow our children to have these “convenient” items that keep them current socially and are suppose to make life better but it doesn’t take long before that phone has become a new appendage! You know it’s always in their hand! They are never without it, always engaged with their friends and sometimes disengaged from real family life. Last summer our son went to Romania for two weeks and we kept his phone. It wasn’t an easy sell but we bought him a camera and sent him with an iPod shuffle filled with music and audios…those were his two main reasons for needing his phone on this trip. While waiting with some parents in the airport, one mentioned that they dreaded returning the phone to their teen, that this was the only way they could have made the teen leave the phone behind. “I can’t make my kid…. when it comes to their phone.” This got me thinking, had we lost our footing as parents? When did we, how did we lose control in this area?
We sat down as a family, after Ty and I discussed what our new technology guidelines were, and laid them out for all of our kids. Here’s what our guidelines are:
- Technology is off by 9 (this has been changed for the oldest but we still stand by the idea that if you wouldn’t use a real phone to call someone at “that hour” you shouldn’t be texting them either. We also agreed that you need a break from your friends and rest)
- Technology is plugged in and stored in the laundry room overnight (we’ve adjusted this for the girls so they can have audio/music at night. We made adjustments to our Wi-Fi so that it cut the kids internet off at 9/10pm )
- Since we homeschool you will not use your iPhone/iPod during our school work time
- If your attitude is consistently disrespectful we will take the iPhone/iPod until we see a heart change in the attitude
- We will know all of your username and passwords….if you change them without telling us we have a chat and you may lose the technology.
- We will read your phone and check your browsing history. If you delete message threads or history we chat and you lose the phone. ( We believe that what you write/text on your phone becomes public property in cyberspace and therefore is open ground for review. If you don’t want us to read it ..don’t send it. Your handwritten/typed journal is private property and we will not read it…unless your attitude suggests intervention is necessary, such as closing us out, not talking to us, breaking trust etc.)
- Apps and music are filtered through your parents before downloading.
- When we eat as a family, all technology is put away. Technology never replaces personal interaction.
Some of these items may seem harsh or overbearing but we believe that it’s our responsibility to teach our kids how to use their technology. Growth and maturity are usually painful to all involved but when it’s over most are grateful for the process. We teach our kids by having conversations with them and setting a good example with our own technology usage. It is our job to train our kids…our teens…how to manage these things living out lives that are guided by the indwelling Spirit of Christ.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4
You may even incur ridicule, opinions that you are too harsh, advice to“chill out” and get real. We were told we couldn’t protect our kids from cell phones and technology. I say back to these people that we are following Christ, swimming upstream against most cultural norms so why is this any different! Why do we expect this area of parenting to be easy? How do we navigate technology and look different, look like Christ?
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 1 Peter 4:14
As Christ Followers we have a large target on our backs, spiritually speaking. There is an enemy waiting for us to open a door for attack. I’m not one to over emphasize spiritual warfare and I am not saying technology is evil. What I am saying is we need to prepare our kids for battle and we need to pursue relationship with them so we can guide them through these teenage years.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
Our sons are prey to pornography and their phones are one of the easiest mediums to access it. It is our job to be aware of what our boys are exposing themselves to and walk with them through these years, loving them and correcting them as we go. Our daughters are prey to a growing up to fast, needing to be loved. These girls want to be pursued by someone, anyone, and texting is a perfect avenue to send messages (text, video or picture) you wouldn’t say or send in person. You are the parent, God gifted you with these children and they are still under your care and provision. Teach them, guide them, love them, discipline them… for the joy of the Lord is your strength…and we will need much strength on this journey raising teens.