Hey Mom, Put Down Your Phone!

Hey Mom, Put Down Your Phone!

I had an interesting conversation in my group the other day. We got to talking about the students’ relationship with their parents, and it quickly turned into a discussion on family time and phone distractions. For probably the first time in one of my Support Groups, every single group member was on the same page! Here are some of the things I heard around the table that day:

  • My mom makes us have “family time” and watch a movie but stares at her phone the whole time.
  • My parents are constantly on Facebook or playing Candy Crush when we are together.
  • Why do they say I’m always on my phone when they are even worse than I am?
  • My dad always sends emails at the dinner table, but I get in trouble if I look at my phone.
  • I tell my parents “family time” doesn’t count if they are on their phones but they say all that matters is that we’re in the same room.
  • Were your parents always on their phones too?

First, let me just admit that I am not yet a parent, but I struggle with this as well. When I sit down to watch a show with my husband, it is easy to mindlessly scroll through Instagram or Facebook out of habit. Sometimes I don’t even notice I’m on my phone until he points it out! Second, it is never fun to get called out by teenagers, but my group issued a challenge that I feel obligated to pass on!

Also on a side note, I laughed out loud when they asked about my parents and their phone use when I was a teenager. When I was in high school, we didn’t have internet on our phones, and we certainly didn’t have fun games like Candy Crush (RIP Snake Game). This is fairly new territory for parents!

Technology isn’t going anywhere, phones aren’t going to phase out, and social media will probably always be king of the internet. So how can we better model how to balance family, work, and fun? We have to be the example in this area; otherwise, our kids will never learn acceptable boundaries and healthy practices.

Before I offer some suggestions, there are a few things I would like to point out about their statements and questions.

1. They watch you and notice.

You know the phrase, “Do as I say and not as I do”? That doesn’t fly with teenagers. They watch you. They see what you do and will push back if what you do is different than what you say. Telling teens to put down their phones while yours is still in front of your face sends a clear message that you probably aren’t intending to communicate.

2. They don’t see a difference between work and social media use of phones.

They don’t care if you are on your phone for work – if they see your phone out, it is a distraction no matter what it’s purpose. Sending email, making calls, checking your Facebook, it is all the same to them. If you are on your phone when you should be spending time with them, your excuses don’t matter – just so you know 🙂

3. They think you have a technology problem.

This absolutely cracks me up! As adults, we read books, listen to podcast, and attend seminars on helping our teenagers manage social media and their phones. We talk about this generation and their problems with connection, but they think adults are the ones with the problem! I am not saying that teens have technology under control or use it appropriately all the time, but until we prove them wrong, I do believe we are the ones with the problem.

4. They actually care about “family time.”

When they were having this discussion, they weren’t upset that they had to be present for family time. They were mad that their parents were violating the time that they set aside. One student even said that he enjoys hanging out with his mom when she isn’t distracted by her phone.

I really don’t want you to miss this point, so I will say it again in case you’re still in shock…teenagers actually care about “family time”! Even when they act like spending time as a family is the worst inconvenience, the stories they tell when you aren’t around would say otherwise.

 


 

As I said above, this is a newer problem for parents. Just like we are trying to figure out how to help our teenagers have boundaries, we are walking the same blurry line. I want you to have a good relationship with your teenager. I want you to be able to take advantage of family time – if they are willing to set aside their phones, don’t ruin it by being on yours!

While I could write several blogs on this topic, let me start with two tips that I believe could make a huge difference in your home!

Do what you ask of your kids.

This seems simple and like a no-brainer, but the more I talk to teens, the more I realize that we are failing at this. While their are perks to being an adult and setting the rules, when they are around and watching you, follow your own rules! If you ask them to put away their phones for a specific time or activity, do the same. Do they have a time limit on how much they can be on their phones? Try to stick to a similar schedule!

They are watching you, and you set the example of how to interact with your phone. This is especially true for when you drive. Ouch…but if you don’t want your teenager to text (or tweet) and drive, put your phone away in the car. Don’t text, don’t have phone conversations that can wait until you get to your destination, don’t be catching up on your Facebook comments while you are driving your kids. Show them how to be responsible and safe!

 

Make “family time” sacred.

Find small ways to make the time you spend as a family special. While it may be unrealistic to expect your teenager to put their phone away anytime they are are with a family member, you can set aside specific times that are phone-free. Some examples could be dinner time, the first 15 minutes after they get home from school, special family activities, or when you watch tv or a movie as a family. Once you ask them to make the activity you decide on phone-free, follow the rule above and put yours up as well!

This might mean that you put your phone on “do not disturb” to keep you from reading texts, checking email, or answering phone calls. Unless it is an emergency, anything on your phone can wait until that sacred time is over. You communicate the importance of family time by your actions. Distractions and phones can kill a family moment – don’t let your teenager down by not giving them your full attention!

So, what do you think? How have you set boundaries in your home? How have you made family time sacred and special? Share with us – we always love new ideas!
Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Why Parents Need Snapchat

Why Parents Need Snapchat

You need Snapchat. Or Facebook. Or Instagram. Or Twitter. Or all of them if you are a real overachiever!

Before you get your defenses up about how you’re too old for Snapchat or how you can’t stand the rants people post on Facebook or how you don’t understand the draw of Twitter, hear me out! If we want to know more about teenagers and their culture, we need to be where they are. And they are on social media all the time. According to Pew Study in 2015, 92% of teens say that they go online daily while 24% of those teenagers are online “almost constantly.”

For these teenagers, social media is not just an app or a hobby, it is their social life. It is where they connect with friends, find out about the latest gossip, watch the video everyone will be talking about tomorrow, flirt with the opposite sex and define their social status through likes and followers.

Earlier this week in one of our Support Groups, I was talking to a boy who was about to go back to his home campus and leave our group. When he asked how we could stay in touch after the group, his first question was not, “What’s your email?” or “Could I have your phone number?” No. The question he asked was, “Are you on Snapchat?”

Now, I could write an entire blog on setting social media boundaries with teenagers who aren’t related to you (and maybe I will soon!), but even though I am not going to connect with him on Snapchat, it is telling that it was his first step to connect outside of face-to-face interaction. To teenagers, where else would you go to talk? How else would you keep up with friends?

If social media is that important to our teenagers, then we need to be willing to go where they are. That doesn’t mean that you should write embarrassing things on their wall or post baby pictures that will cause social homicide, but being on the platforms they are on gives you credibility and something to talk about. It gives you insight into those “scary apps” that you hear about from other parents or mommy blogs and puts you in control of what platforms they are allowed to participate on. Before you knock Snapchat, try it! You might like seeing short videos and pictures throughout your teenager’s day. You’ll probably laugh at the goofy filters and voices they use. You might even find out a little more information about where they are and who they are spending time with.

Social media can be a good thing both for teenagers and for parents, but we must take the fear and anxiety out of these apps. The easiest way to do that is to get informed! If you are still unsure about the whole social media thing, give this podcast with Sarah Brooks a listen, or find out more about Snapchat with this podcast!

I will make one note about social media interactions with those who aren’t your children: a safe rule is to make sure that your interactions with teenagers are public on social media – Snapchat might not be the best place to check in on teens of the opposite sex or to go back and forth with private snaps throughout the day. Keep Facebook interactions public and on their wall – maybe even wait for them to friend or follow you first! Above all, be smart about how you interact with teenagers in any situation, whether digital or not.

What apps are your teenagers using? What do you think about getting on these social media platforms yourself? Try it and let us know how it goes!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
The Secret Texts of the American Teenager

The Secret Texts of the American Teenager

Did you ever take the home phone into your bedroom? Or write notes at school and hide them in a box under your bed? I remember texting friends and deleting certain messages (as if it wasn’t obvious what I had done).

This is not a new concept. Teenagers crave privacy and will go to extreme lengths to hide conversations and information from their parents.

Living in a digital world where nearly every interaction can be seen by friends, parents, grandparents and that strange neighbor down the street, teenagers have to find new ways to protect their privacy.

Now before you continue reading, don’t hear me saying that A) you need to give your teenager absolute privacy and never check on their social media accounts or B) you should monitor every single app, text, phone call or interaction they have. As the parent (or someone who talks to parents about these things), it is up to you to set boundaries and expectations that work for you and your household.

However, there should be some accountability for teenagers.

As tricky as they think they are, “private” messages are not private anymore. Anything can be screenshot, saved and brought up in the future. Even Snapchat isn’t the secure vault some believe it to be. So as the parent, here are some things you should be aware of and keep your eye on. If you check your child’s text messages and don’t see anything suspicious, make sure they aren’t using some of these other apps to privately message friends.

 

Snapchat

This one is obvious. By this point, most people either love using Snapchat filters to turn themselves into a flower-crown-wearing-princess, or they think it is from the devil himself. This app is used to send pictures and messages either privately or to a group of people. The scary part of this app is that everything is “deleted” (at least from what you can see) after it is viewed.

How do you check what is being sent to your child? How do you know if they are being appropriate? This one requires a conversation, because the answer is – you can’t.

But don’t panic! We recorded a podcast on this very issue – you should take a listen!

 

Direct Messages

Instagram, Twitter and Facebook all have direct messaging features built into the app. If you want to share a funny post but don’t want others to see it, direct messages are the perfect place! These direct messages function much like text messaging – they are private and can be deleted.

On Instagram, if the sender deletes the message, it deletes the original messages and every comment from their friend’s profile. Facebook even has a separate app now for their messages called “Messenger.”

Direct messages are not a new feature, but it is a way that many teenagers get around parents who check phones. They know that you will check texts and calls first. But if you aren’t thorough enough and don’t ask about direct messages, they could be hiding their more sensitive messages in an app.

(*Note: not every teenager who uses direct messaging is trying to trick you – most of the time they are not. But please don’t be naive and think that bad things could only happen through their phone’s text messages.)

 

Messaging Apps

I actually had a conversation with a teenager who said that he uses a messaging app and hides it in a random folder on his phone so his parents won’t find it. They have no idea to look for messaging apps, and when they do weekly checks of his phone, they find nothing wrong.

Teenagers think they are so smart, so parents need to be smarter!

Do you homework! Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Kik, and GroupMe are probably the most popular, but there are tons of apps that function as text, video and picture messaging services. Many teens use these if they want to group message with friends who don’t have iPhones, but they can also be used as a backup text app when they want more privacy.

 

If you approach these things with an open attitude and are shock proof, like we have talked about in this blog, your teen will grow to respect your involvement in their life rather then resent it.

Have you seen your teenager using any of these apps? How have you been able to have positive conversations about their social media practices? Let’s assume the best about our teenagers while also holding them accountable! 

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Lifeline’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Don’t Panic about Social Media with Sarah Brooks

Don’t Panic about Social Media with Sarah Brooks

Sarah Brooks joins us on the Stay Calm, Don’t Panic! Podcast to talk all things Social Media! Are you concerned about your teenager’s digital life? Are you looking for answers but don’t know where to start? Do your social media conversations only lead to fights? In this episode, we will discuss the answers to all these questions and more. There is no need to panic about social media…you’ve got this!

IMG_0823

In this episode, you’ll find out…

  • How teenagers view social media, and why it isn’t the same as how adults view it.
  • The top apps that teenagers are using (according to “sarahstistics”).
  • How social media affects teenagers’ self-esteem.
  • The benefits and positive aspects of social media.
  • A different perspective of how to view social media.
  • How to create a sacred, tech-free space.

Ask yourself…

  • Am I choosing my battles wisely when talking about social media with teenagers?
  • Am I having a conversation about social media or starting a battle?
  • What am I scared of when it comes to social media?
  • How much time am I spending on my phone? Am I willing do what I am asking of my teenager?

 

Go ask a teen…

  • What are the top 3 apps that you like to spend your time on?
  • Do you feel pressure from social media? Do you feel the need to keep up and get as many followers as your friends?
  • When am I on my phone that you wish that I weren’t?
You’re not dealing with an app problem, you’re dealing with a teenage problem! - @dontpanicpodcast @sarahbrooks13 Click To Tweet

Additional Resources:

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

 

About us: 

Sarah Brooks is a blogger, mom of 3 boys and social media expert! She has spoken across the country at various groups, churches, and schools about social media (the good, the bad, and the confusing), most of which stemmed from a post she wrote called Parents: A Word About Instagram. As a Millenial herself, she is passionate about bridging the gap between parents and teens on all things social media. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram!

 

Chris Robey is the Program Director for Teen Lifeline, Inc. Earlier in his career while working as a youth minister, Chris earned a Masters Degree in Family Life Education from Lubbock Christian University to better equip his work with teenagers and families. Chris’ career and educational opportunities have exposed him to teenagers from a variety of backgrounds. Follow him on Twitter!

 

Karlie Duke started working as Teen Lifeline’s Communications Director after graduating from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Communications with a minor in Family Studies. Karlie has worked with teenagers for the past 5 years and is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram!

 
 

 

Have a question?

 If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
 

 

Don't Panic QUOTE-4

 LCU BANNER AD

 

Listen Now!