Three imperative topics parents must discuss with their kids regarding phones.

Since writing Raising Kids in a Screen-saturated World, I have had many conversations with parents about issues with children and smartphones. The conversations often include a level of regret from parents. They wish they would have been more proactive in what having a phone would look like for their child. In these conversations, three topics surface with regularity.

These imperative topics I call the 3Cs. They are Confidentiality, Conditions, and Costs.

Parents can avoid regret and conflict by addressing these topics early. The best plan is to have these talks before you give your child their own smartphone. However, if you have already given your child a smartphone, don’t worry! You will find help here, it is never too late to have these conversation. In fact they may be more necessary now than ever before.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is a big issue. For our purposes, confidentiality is about privacy and hiding, both of which can lead to unhelpful and even dangerous realities for your child. So parents must talk about it.

Establish first that privacy is a thing of the past. Children must understand that their activity on a device, including a password protected smartphone, is not private. Your child’s activity on their phone is discoverable and recoverable.

The conversation about confidentiality should include a discussion about privacy and hiding. The scope of your parenting includes your child’s personal activity with their smartphones. Access to your child’s phones is a parental responsibility. Establish ways you will engage with them and their phones that is reasonable and respectful.

Teach them what wise interaction looks like with social media, texting, browsing, and app use. Help them understand the weight of sending something that can never be unsent. Instill in their thinking that even though they may feel a certain level of privacy it is a a penetrable illusion. Walk with them in understanding that hiding is a dangerous path.

Conditions

This conversation is about limits and boundaries. The conversation about conditions answers questions regarding with whom your child gives their number. What social media apps will they use? Where will the phone be kept when not in use? Are there times or places that will be “no phone zones”? Should they have data limits? What will those limits be?

Parents and kids have expectations regarding conditions so it is best to have the conversation right away. This will set the course and help to avoid conflict that regularly arises on this issue. Remember you are the parent and this is a topic where your children need your guidance, even if they push back against it.

Parents must set the stage for what the conditions will look like. If your child really wants a social media app, and you feel it is reasonable, explore it with them. Engage it with them. Your involvement should be a regular condition to them having a phone. Your involvement should be positive as well. If your engagement only comes in the form of punishment or consequences, you are paving a path of resistance.

Costs

What are the expenses and how will your child be a part of them? Most kids will be added to their parent’s phone plan. It will be the most affordable option for everyone. However, just because they are being added to your plan doesn’t mean your child has no responsibility.

Getting a phone is a long-term decision. I have rarely heard of a kids who, after getting a smartphone, willingly reverts back to a cheaper non-data flip phone or no phone at all. So have a conversation about costs right from the start. This conversation helps you child avoid a sense of entitlement and allows them to view a phone as a privilege.

I encourage parents to give their children some skin in the game. Discussions about costs should be age and resource appropriate. If you have given your child a phone as a gift, discuss how and when they will begin contributing to the monthly cost. If you plan on paying for their full phone bill, talk about when that will change. Parents who have not had that conversation will often find that they are still paying for their son or daughter’s phone bill even after they have launched on their own.

Continuing the Conversations

Giving your child a smartphone opens up uncharted territory for most parents. If you have read this article you may have more questions on how to better engage your child regarding wise cellphone use. Maybe you haven’t given your child a phone and are wondering what is the appropriate right-of-passage age. Maybe you have concerns about guarding them from concerning issues like sexting or bullying. Or perhaps you want to learn more about how to wisely walk with them in this world where everyone carries a mini computer in their pocket.

These and other questions are answered in Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World. It provides age appropriate questions to engage conversations with your child. You will also find plenty of other resources in the “for further reading” portion at the conclusion of the book. Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World is available from 10ofThose.com.

Are Screens the Problem?

RaisingKids_BookCover_Small
Click to pre-order at 10ofThose.com.

Have unwanted graphic texts, violent video games, pornography, cyber bullying, sexting, or screen addition been a concern for you as a parent raising children in this cyber age?

These name only a few of the concerning vices that our screen-saturated world has brought about. Parents can feel lost in the digital landscape where their children are the technological experts and mom and dad struggle just to keep up. But keeping your child screen-free is about as realistic as keeping them from outgrowing their clothes.

If it isn’t already your reality, eventually your child will one day have that tell-tail rectangular pattern lining their jean’s pocket. Most parents are dependent on their child having a phone of some type in order to keep up with one another in a full and fast pace life. Despite the discouraging engagement that a world of devices can bring, the question to ask is this; Are screens really the problem?

Is the solution to avoid giving your child technology? Most parents have already found that is an unrealistic option. Screens enter children’s lives at the earliest ages. Pediatrician’s offices have screens in their waiting room to help the children pass the time. Libraries rent colorful tablets that are preloaded with books and games for preschoolers. Schools begin using iPads at the elementary level and many students will be assigned a device at the start of a school year.

Parents fighting for screen-free space in their family can wrongly vilify the device as the problem. But if the screen is not the problem what is? In Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World, parents will find practical answers to this tension. Consider the following:

“We are not fighting against technology. Phones, tablets, laptops, etc., are amoral. They are tools that can be used for good or evil. Don’t over- spiritualize activities because they either include or exclude a screen. Certainly there are times where living a life pleasing to the Lord will mean the intentional absence of screens but keep in mind that the screen is not the enemy. The frailty of weak and wandering hearts turns a potentially helpful tool into an instrument of destruction. In a world so profoundly dependent on technology, the answer is not to label devices as the problem and avoid them. Rather, reflect on what technology is revealing about what is in your heart and your children’s heart.”[1]

This approach deals with the deeper issue. Conversations must be about what is driving screen activity is more important. What is motivating what they consume, produce, and promote online is ultimately where the problem lies. The screen simply gives a platform for the heart.

Recognizing that technology or screens are not the root problem will create a avenue to see the potential positive use that screens can bring into your child’s world. Rather than focusing on the screen consider how to better understand what is drawing your child and begin to have conversations there.

[1] From Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World. Pre-order your copy at 10of Those.com.

I Write Like I Cook

Writing for me is a bit like cooking. Sometimes I have clear intentions about what I want to cook. I purchase the ingredients and generally follow a recipe. Likewise, in writing, sometimes I have a clear topic, an outline, and a destination in mind.

But most often I cook, and write, from what I have gathered. Most of my meals come from my storehouses (aka the pantry or refrigerator) and I have only a general idea of what the outcome will be.

Writing Raising Teens in a Hyper–Sexualized World was more like that. I never planned to write a book about raising teens. But through my own experience of raising teens and counseling parents through the teen years I had gathered a good amount in my storehouses (books, workshops, and wisdom from fellow parents) and I decided to pull together these things and write a short book covering a topic that all parents raising teens face.

No matter how old your child is, the topic of sex will always be a challenging one.

From the first time they begin to recognize their body to the later years of coming of age, sex is something that parents can feel unsure of what to do with. While the book is focused on teens, the subject of sex will come up throughout all stages of parenting. Most people who have read Raising Teens have said they wish they’d read it earlier in their parenting.
Parents need practical help for the here and now. That is the focus of this book. What does it look like to parent well with the issue of sex? The book succinctly describes 7 things parents should not do when interacting with their teens on the subject of sex. However, each “don’t” is coupled with redemptive “do’s” to help parents find hope in the midst of possible mistakes.

It was my goal to write something that was brief enough for any parent to get through.

Let’s face it, parenting is a life full of hustling and juggling to fit everything in. Reading a book may be helpful, but it is challenging to find the time.

An important reminder comes right at the beginning of the book:
“It is my hope that this small book will help parents, who are raising teens, to engage more effectively on this topic. There is no easy way to approach the teen years and all of the challenges they bring. Listing several tips will not make navigating this subject easier. Yet my desire is that the guidance here will give you direction where you may feel lost, and encouragement where you may feel defeated.”

I am not a chef but I hope that my cooking isn’t too bad. Sometimes I should follow that recipe a little closer, but other times I just cook and things come together. I am not an expert on raising teens. I have made my share of mistakes, but this little book is a joining together of experience and expertise that I have gathered along my own journey. It is my hope that it will be helpful and even nourishing to parents as they seek to walk well with their teens.

(This post was originally published on www.10ofthose.com.)

A Needed Book

book-coverI never meant to write a book on raising teens. I don’t claim to have the corner on how to do it right nor do I claim to have all the answers. In fact if I was tasked to write on anything I completely grasped or mastered the book would basically have a front and back cover. I am a work in progress and I suppose most reading this would say the same of themselves. Probably my favorite lines in this small book are, “There are no perfect parents. There are no perfect teens. And there are no perfect parenting books!” So why write a book about teens then? And more specifically about teens and sex?

To say it simply, because it is needed.

There are many books on talking to your kids about sex but many of them are things to do to prepare for a conversation. You know that awkward conversation? The one that you dread having and then once you have it you hope to never have it again. This is not that kind of book. This book explores how to respond to your teen when you are faced with the reality that they may know more than you thought and possibly be engaging in more than you hoped. The pages contain situations and stories that come from many years of counseling parents who desperately want to respond well to their teens. Leaning on the wisdom of Scripture as well as faithful authors who have more extensive experience than myself helped me to compile what I hope will be helpful tips for parents of teens.They are tips to help keep the conversations going.

Teens today are being bombarded with sexual content and images making it difficult for even the most engaged parents to keep up with. It can feel you feeling exhausted and defeated before you even get a chance to really try and engage them. This book is for parents who are trying to keep up but also for parents who may find themselves feeling behind in this face paced hyper-sexualized world.

The tips given in this book are things to avoid but they are also coupled with positive affirmations of hope for how God can use even the mistakes as opportunities to go deeper with your teen and create an environment that lends toward further conversation.

The book is short enough that even the busiest parents can get through it. The counsel is concise and practical. It is my hope and prayer that parents will come away from reading this with a hopeful outlook, knowing that God is at work in both them and their teen and that they can be a voice in their teenager’s life that influences and guides them towards a life that honors the Lord in the midst of an alluring world.

Raising Teens in a Hyper-Sexualized World is available at 10ofthose.us (<-best price for bulk orders) and Amazon.com