The Digitally Aware Parent-Bringing the Kids Back Home – April 2013
In my last article we discussed all the ways that our kids have segmented themselves from the family and yes, even their friends. Texting and “group texting” – where kids get on their phones and talk in a huge text-efficient conference room – are great ways to not only say and offer up one line responses to things they’d never ever say in person, but ruin their reputation in the process. There’s nothing worse than leaving a line of text out there you can’t get back.
To better arm parents with some ways to get control once again in the household, I’m offering the following tips. Of course every child is different and I’m not recommending you use all of these, but I’m sure you’ll find something here you can apply.
1) Charging Stations
Whether it be a tablet or phone, make sure your child doesn’t assume that charging the device is better done in their room at night when they go to bed. If you want to see bleary eyed kids come downstairs for breakfast in the morning, let them take their communications to the bedroom. There are two obvious reasons not to allow this. The first, is just the practical side that if you’re viewing the internet and chatting with your friends at all hours of the night (and they will, if they take it to bed), they will suffer in school. The second is that late at night, people (adults too) with their defenses down, tend to do some irreperable harm when talking while tired. Simple solution – make them charge it in the kitchen or living room.
2) Check their Apps
Once thing the various app stores don’t really monitor is age appropriate and negative consequence tools that can be downloaded on your phone or tablet. There are plenty of apps that are inappropriate for your child. One to particularly look for is SnapChat. It’s one of those apps that looks harmless from the outside, but when you realize that it’s wholly designed to share photos and immediately erase them from view – you have to ask the question – “what’s the purpose of this?” The answer? Nothing good. I told my son it’s like MTV. If I ask you what you’re watching and you say “some show on MTV” I’m going to tell you to change the channel. It doesn’t matter what show. Why? Because I know that nothing socially redeeming has EVER been produced by MTV. That’s not their purpose. Neither is that the purpose of SnapChat. If you find it on your son’s or daughter’s phone, delete it or like me, tell them if you see it appear again they’ll lose their phone.
One solution that will take the day to day burden off of parents is to use Norton’s great new line of mobile family safety filters and tools which you can find here.
While this column mainly skirts the issues of safety and oversight for parents – the Enough is Enough Internet Safety 101 site has a great full-bodied checklist of many of the tools and procedures you can use as a parent. You can find that list here.
3) Set an Example
When we’re sitting in the living room at night as a family, I can’t possibly tell my child to stop ignoring the family by texting all night, if we’re doing the same thing. I look around the room some evenings and it’s amazing how we can all be in the same room but virtually somewhere else. I found that I was just as bad as my kids. When I took my phone and/or tablet to the other room and left it there – that gave me license to tell my kids to do the same. By the way, the same goes for texting and driving and that’s another topic for another day.
One of the best way to set an example for the whole family is to employ an open dialogue of your expectations. You certainly can’t get your family to abide by rules that are “assumed” but not stated. We parents are very good at expecting our children to abide by standards we rarely exhibit or express ourselves.
4) Get their Passwords
If I’m paying for the phone and/or the phone service (don’t let them get away with saying it’s their phone because they bought the device but don’t pay the monthly bill) then it’s my right to occasionally check out what’s going on with the phone. To do this I need their password and my kids know that they have to give it to me to use one. It’s amazing what you can learn about your kids and more importantly their friends, when you check out the texting history. I’m not saying you do it every night, but do it every once in a while and find a way to talk to them about their behavior (or their friend’s) without specifically going line by line through the phone. If anything, it’s a good way to determine how deep they are into bad conversations and whether they are leading or being led by a stream of inappropriate talk. If, by the way, your child is not involved in anything untoward, it will also help you sleep better.
Mark Gilman is a married father of five, from 29-12 and a member of the Enough Is Enough Advisory Council. He also owns a marketing and communications company based in the Detroit area (www.decusstrategy.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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