I was walking out of the campus ministry conference I spoke at last week, and randomly began speaking with a college student about kids and cell phones.
“My kids don’t have cell phones. It’s inconvenient, but we make it work. I don’t know when that will change, but we’re just kind of figuring it out as we go,” I told her.
“Don’t give them a cell phone in high school. Trust me, I’m 21 years old. I know about the bullying. You can’t stop it,” she said.
My heart broke for her, and what she has probably experienced as she stared at that tiny piece of tech in her hand.
I’ve read about the dark things that lurk in social media discussed in this article. (Please read this if you haven’t!) I’ve prayed for the people who have lost too much to online pressures they didn’t see coming. I’ve seen the way-too-adult behavior in the kids of this new millennium, and I have mourned their childhoods that ended way too early. I’ve had parents roll their eyes at me because I am “that kind of parent”, who doesn’t do sleepovers or let her kids play video games with strangers online.
I’m sorry-not-sorry to be the bummer parent. But pastors hear everyone’s worst stories, and we know a little bit about what’s out there. We don’t know everything, but we know enough to be careful. We keep our kids in the loop with all these kinds of choices. We listen to them and let them help us find ways to make wise tech choices. We encourage them to equip themselves for this technology thing that is coming hard and fast at them every day.
Spoiler alert: Kids are smart and they actually know what’s good for them most of the time!! One of my sons has found an app that monitors video game time and he set it up on my phone, because he knows it helps when I can see what is really going on. It’s in his best interest to help his parents know he is behaving in a trustworthy manner with the tech he has been given.
We encourage our kids to read about brain research so they will know what’s happening in their own heads. (There is BIG STUFF GOING ON IN THERE!!) We tell them that we are trying really hard to be fun, fair, and wise. We try to listen to God about it all. We remind our kids often that they only have a few years to be young, and that they should squeeze every bit of awesomeness about of this time in their life.
Because all of this tech stuff is new.
We are the first generation of parents who have to sort out how to handle technology that is woven into the daily fabric of our lives. Social media is a part of that.
I don’t know that I really know the absolute best way to do this, but this is how we are trying to carry our kids through their adolescence wisely:
- None of my children have a cell phone. It is inconvenient sometimes, but we figure it out.
- My kids aren’t allowed to bring devices out and about with us on errands and in the car. They have learned that being bored is not a curse, it’s a chance to talk, think, and explore new ideas (it is also a time to learn how not to complain, lol). Technology always requires responsibility, which isn’t an inherent talent of children undet the age of 18.
- Safari is disabled on our tablets and ipods.
- We mute the commercials when we watch network television, like the Olympics and football games.
- All video game chats and online team play are turned off. T rated games have to be approved (there is a wide array), and no M rated games are allowed.
- No devices are allowed upstairs in our house when friends come over (and definitely not allowed in their rooms), so any screen time exists in the environment of our family community.
- We are saving any and all rated R movies and most PG13 movies for their older teen years (even most super hero movies!), because we don’t want them watching extremely violent or suggestive scenes while their brains are still developing. Besides, I think they’ll appreciate the slightly more mature ad complex storylines more when they are older.
- I research the books my kids are reading and we must approve new titles, series, and authors, because books are full of stuff these days that my kids won’t know how to process- even in the juvenile section of the library.
But most of all, I try to ask my kids this question, “Who do you want to be? What kind of memories do you want from this time in your life? What activities will help you achieve that?”
We all know that a day of binging our favorite shows is nice every now and then, but there are many things we want more. Sometimes we just have to be reminded of that, and so do our kids.
My kids’ world is still small and simple, and I plan to keep it that way for as long as I can. Kids at school and on their teams may think they’re dorks, they may think I am way too strict and not a cool mom. So be it. My kids know I love them and that I’m doing the best I can with the information we have about their brain development and the dangers that lurk in the online world. And amazingly, we are a happy, loving family despite our total dorkiness!
Do not be deceived, your child is a precious target for someone, somewhere. The media wants to make our kids its next loyal follower. Online chat wants to make them tiny adults who know the darkest, most cynical side of humanity. Video game companies want their allegiance and money. My kids know that there are larger powers out there vying for influence in their lives, but everything has to pass through their dad and me before it even has a small shot at my winning their hearts. You know what that means? It means I’m telling them that I care more about their safety than anything else in the world. We are elevating the importance of trust in our relationship and in the places we invest our time, effort, and emotions.
I want to protect this short season of their lives and let them be kids, who have a childhood that is precious, full of defining moments, hard work, and fun experiences. The end, forever and ever, Amen.
#letthembekids #protectchildhood #parentswhoarentcool