Technology and Our Kids Part 3 , written by Ryan Langeland, answers a few of parents’ most frequently asked questions.
As an area Youth Leader who remembers teaching students before the advent of the Internet, I have seen a new generation of students learning to grow up with readily-available technology and all of its benefits and aggravations. Parents are regularly asking me for advice regarding students’ use of cell phones, and I thought I would briefly share the most common questions I get and how I respond to them:
When is the best time for my student to get a cell phone?
A: The summer before High School. I absolutely love and vigorously protect Middle Schoolers and can say they are rarely at a point when they can appropriately manage their cell phone use. I realize that this is not a commonly-held view and that many Middle Schoolers have cell phones. Yes, this will be a point of contention in a household that is holding off cell phone privileges, but deferred gratification yields greater responsibility. Use the post-8th Grade summer to closely monitor cell phone use and to provide guidance before your student enters High School.
What are some apps or behaviors I need to be watching out for, as a parent?
A: Some of these are obvious: Texting and driving, sexting, and bullying. Let me encourage parents to be TOUGH and VIGILANT with treatment of violations of these behaviors. Please remember that repeated negative consequences for behavior lose effect over time. It is more important to be clear, decisive, and present during a first punishment than at any other time.
Here’s another thing to watch for: students are setting up fake or proxy accounts on social media, virtual private networks or secret internet accessing accounts, or using other students’ phones. For better or for worse, students want to be privately contact people with their cell phones. They will go to great lengths to keep their interactions with anyone secret, especially from their parents.
How do I monitor what my student is doing with their cell phone?
A: You really can’t do this entirely, but there are really good practices that will help students properly prioritize cell phone use and keep use from happening at times that will often get students into trouble. Let me point out a few: Have students leave their cell phones on the kitchen table to charge before going to bed at night.-Have students leave their cell phones at home when going to church functions.-Make a “no headphones” rule for when you are taking trips. This allows for a little more interaction and accountability for the entertainment students are taking in when traveling. -Ask students what they are doing, playing, etc. on their phones. Do this often enough so that it is not an awkward conversation. Let students know that you care what they are doing in the digital world. Let them know that you want them to make wise decisions in what they are doing, on their own. Confirm that you want to walk alongside them with this, not above them.
Warsaw Community Church Youth Pastor