I will always be grateful for modern conveniences and the advancement of technology. I often wonder if I might have done better in my arts degree with access to Google images (Who remembers the old school library and photocopier days?!). The internet is no longer new, but I am still so often surprised when I hear parents do not know what their teens are interested in or engaged in, or what’s the current mode of popular communication.
I believe we – ‘The Parent’ – should buckle up, get ahead of the game and coach our children on how to use the ‘new’ for good. I often get asked how we as a parents monitor our kids on the internet. It has not been easy to find the right balance of freedom and responsibilities; it’s also true our kids have not always liked our Top 10 Tips, but we have always wanted to be the ones to teach our children about what the outside world has in store before someone / something else will.
Over a few years of trial & error, some great parenting blogs, links and friends with teenagers, we have tried to follow these guidelines (not as rules but as a way of life). We also set our home filters and I keep the passwords, we keep an open mind, appear un-shockable, and super importantly we talk everything through so there are no surprises (see point 10).
With this in mind here are our top 10 how-to tips when using technology and mobile devices for teens:
1) Mobile phones & devices are a privilege, not a right, & primarily there so we as parents can stay in contact for safety & so you can be connected to your friends & family. They are for fun, creativity, organisation and are a brilliant addition to life, not always an essential one.
2) All phones & devices although bought for your use, still belong to us & we kindly allow you to borrow them.
3) Phones & devices can be fun & useful but should never replace human interaction.
Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Play some real music. Play sport. Call for a friend, play a board game and remember not all you read or see is the truth, and don’t bring them to the dinner table (unless you have the most up to date playlist).
4) We will always know the passwords, & ALL devices are spot checked regularly for appropriate content, conversation (including browsers, internet history, youtube, messages, emails & social media). It is so easy to get lost on youtube – what started as the #fail videos can very quickly meander to places that you never intended.
This step is not because we don’t trust, but because the role of a parent is to coach & train in good behaviour/choices and because our motives are from love.
5) Devices are not private. Journals are private and on request we will happily buy you a paper journal – you can even pick the colour.
Please don’t write/watch/send/say anything you wouldn’t in person, because once you hit send you have no idea how far it will travel, or the impact it has on the person it’s sent too.
6) Be kind – if you wouldn’t say it to your sister/mum/granny please don’t say it OR ask it on text, snapchat, messenger, DM or other. Conversations can easily & quickly get out of hand. Believe it or not there are some words & questions that even emojis cannot fix.
7) We will, at our discretion, take your devices overnight. (Don’t worry, we will replace them with an old school alarm clock, in case you were worried about getting up for school in time).
8) If it rings, answer it. If you get a text, reply to it. Say hello & use your manners. Do not ever red button a phone call from Mum or Dad, like ever!
10) You will mess up.We may take away your phone. You will get it back. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. We are always learning. We are on your team. We are in this together.
I have a version for younger kids to share at a later date too – I know from experience we all need all the tips we can get to work out this thing we call parenting.
Hope this helps you fellow parents,