Teenage cell phone use… er… misuse is the hot subject on parents’ minds. Teenagers are pushing the limits, and parents are questioning how to respond. My parent workshop last night was no exception.
After teaching my workshops, I always enjoy the chance to mingle with parents and listen to their struggles. Last night parent after parent approached me sharing a common plight:
“I’m having fits with my teenager and his/her cell phone!”
I assured each one of them. “You’re not alone!”
Last week, ‘Dave’ sent me an email asking for advice:
“Given my daughter’s pattern of irresponsibility with her cell phone, I’d love to just cut the phone out of her life altogether. But the drawback is, then she won’t learn how to handle it on her own someday. What do I do?” -Daddy Dave
This question springboards a perfect opportunity to put some real world application to last week’s posts on setting guardrails. Well-placed guardrails are a proven tool to proactively keep our kids focused on the road ahead, but they aren’t foolproof. Kids will still push boundaries, often busting through guardrails and steering off course.
So what is my solution to Dave and other parents whose teens and tweens are pushing their luck with their cell phones?
I’m sure some of us have been tempted to use those solutions, at times. (I wonder what sound an iPhone makes when going through a woodchipper?)
Let me suggest a solution that doesn’t kill their phone, and maim our relationship with our kids.
Pro-active Parenting—Before the Infraction
Instead of just considering how to respond to cell phone misuse, let me take a few moments to talk about prevention. In other words: What are some good ways to avoid this situation in the first place?
1. Embark on the Road to Biblical Truth
Last week I suggested that our guardrails are only as good as the road we’re on. Cell phone guardrails are no different. If we aren’t teaching our kids Biblical values, then how can we expect them to make Godly decisions with technology?
Young people are discovering numerous ways to get into trouble via their cell phones, especially now that 58% of 12-17-year-olds have smartphones: texting too much, downloading raunchy music or videos, browsing racy web sites, or the all-too-common practice of engaging in inappropriate conversations they probably wouldn’t have if they were face to face.
If we’re teaching our kids Biblical truth, much of this can be prevented. For example: if our kids value the Biblical concept of purity, then they’ll recognize impure content immediately and have a chance to steer from it. But let’s be real. Sin is alluring, especially sexual sin. So…
2. Set Fair Guardrails
Well-placed guardrails will often keep our kids from wandering into some dangerous territory. (Here’s some sample guardrails.)
So what are guardrails that might help our kids steer clear of some of these cell phone dangers? Consider some of these:
- Enable “parental controls” on mobile phones. Check with your phone manufacturer or mobile carrier about blocking inappropriate web content. You’ll also find articles on the web about setting parental controls on common phones like the iPhone. (Comment section: parents, what mobile blocks have you found available?)
- Parents have full access to kids’ cell phones and text messages at any time. Cell phones are a privilege, not a right.
- You can’t delete texts without parents’ permission. (If necessary, AT&T customers can log into accounts online and see how many texts were sent per day and compare those to the number of texts on the phone.)
- Must talk with parents about all music and videos before downloading.
If your teenagers are showing trust in these areas, then you may not need to enforce many of these guardrails. Extreme, unrealistic, legalistic, or over-protective guardrails often steer kids toward rebellion. More on that in this post, “No Rules by Age 17½.”
3. Talk as You Walk
Some of the best parenting advice I’ve read was written several thousand years ago. Moses instructed his people to trust the Lord their God with all their hearts, soul and strength (Deut 6). But he didn’t stop there. He told them to impress these commandments on their children as they sit at home, as they walk along the road, when they lie down and when they get up (vs. 7).
That’s quite a mandate: morning, noon and night, having conversations while you are sitting and walking. Moses paints a clear picture of a parent who is giving regular instruction as they go through life together.
I don’t want to sound like a fanatic here, but this is where the media has really lied to our kids. Almost every kid’s show portrays shrewd kids who are figuring out life for themselves with little, if any, help from their oblivious parents. These Disney channel brats leave their parents on the sidelines, because let’s face it… “parents are clueless morons who just don’t understand kids today.”
This is the polar opposite of Biblical teaching, like the entire book of Proverbs which encourages children to humbly learn from their parents and obey their instruction.
But the blame doesn’t lay with Nickelodeon and Disney channel (not totally, anyway). Parents are neglecting their calling to “talk as we walk.”
Moses gave us the mandate to talk with our kids morning, noon and night… walking, sitting on the couch, eating dinner… name it!
When’s the last time you talked with your kids about “these commandments”?
Our kids are going to veer off course much more frequently when we leave our kids to figure out life on their own.
Does pro-active parenting keep our kids from ever veering off-course? Nope. Sometimes our kids will push the limits. And the cell phone is one of their favorite ways to do this.
So how should we respond when our kids break our rules and veer from the guardrails we’ve set?
I answer that question in my next post., here.