“Mama, I want a cell phone.”
The requests for a cell phone started around third grade. The list of friends who possessed this technological treasure started growing. By the time fifth grade rolled around, my daughter was sure she was the only one without an iPhone. I pointed out a few friends still on the outside. She relented, outsmarted once again.
At middle school orientation, the teachers recommended all students have a cell phone for safety and school work. I cringed. We put a pay-as-you-go dumbphone in her backpack. Then, last week, my seventh-grade daughter confirmed that she is now, most definitely, the only one of her friends without a smartphone.
Why haven’t I consented yet? After all, my daughter is almost thirteen. Students use smartphones in the classroom as an instructional tool. She has an iPod (purchased with her own money) that she uses responsibly. She spends time away from home, and I like the idea of her having that phone in her pocket. Adding one more line to our current wireless plan will only add a little more to our bill. Why am I so hesitant to give in?
I am afraid, plain and simple. After one of my kids had a nasty run-in with the wrong end of a Google search a few years ago, my mom radar is super-strong. We have strict guidelines about screen use in our home. All the filters and parental controls are turned on. We preach online safety and monitor screen time like a prison warden. No social media accounts, all new apps must be researched and approved, and get off the YouTube when I leave the room.
Even with all of these safeguards and restrictions, my kids can potentially see things they shouldn’t. They hear the explicit lyrics on the school bus. It’s easy for them to get sucked into the time warp of the latest word game. Predators know how to utilize Minecraft (please be extra cautious with those MC YouTubers!). I can put up fences, but this doesn’t prepare my children to live in the real world.I can put up fences but this doesn't prepare my children to live in the real world. #cyberparentingClick To Tweet
TALK Saves the Day
Mandy Majors, founder of nextTalk, saves the day with a practical resource for parents of tweens. In her book TALK: A Practical Guide to Cyberparenting and Open Communication, Majors addresses cyberparenting concerns in this ever-changing technological world. Instead of giving us lists of apps to avoid or guidelines for YouTube searches, she focuses on the most effective parenting strategy—open communication.
While I cannot protect my children from every attack on their innocence, I can equip them to deal with these attacks. I can prepare them with information and strategies. By communicating with them honestly and often, I build a trusting relationship. This leaves the door open for them to come back with follow-up questions and new concerns.
Majors’ book should be required reading for all parents. She extends the concept of open communication beyond cyberparenting. TALK addresses many difficult to discuss issues such as:
- Social Media
- Mass Shootings and Terrorism
- Sex Talks and Masturbation
- Attitude and Body Changes
Majors gives examples of real-life conversations between parents and children. She explains the ideal set-up for these tricky talks. Following the example of Deuteronomy 6:7, communication with our children is best done in the natural rhythms of life.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (NKJV)
When I finished reading TALK, I felt better prepared to parent my tween and teen. I cannot keep up with the changes in technology, but I can maintain open lines of communication with my kids. My goal is that they would feel comfortable talking to me about anything that comes their way. With this goal in mind, my daughter’s request for a cell phone became less scary and more a normal part of growing up.
Well, Mom? Can I?
I still don’t have a definitive answer for my tweenage daughter when she asks about a cell phone. But I’m no longer scared to give her one. In keeping with the idea of open communication, I actually confessed my fears to her. I admitted to being a little irrational about the whole thing, especially in light of her maturity and trust level.
We talked about things she can do to help her cause.
- Follow current house rules about screen use, specifically no screens in bedrooms or bathrooms.
- Demonstrate self-monitoring of screen time. In other words, show me you know when enough is enough.
- Continue to talk to me about what you see on your friends’ phones that concern you.
- Demonstrate a need for a phone by using your dumbphone (I think she hides it out of embarrassment).
When it is time for a cell phone, I will use Major’s sample cell phone contract found at the end of TALK. I love the practical and reasonable way it champions personal responsibility and measured trust. A cell phone will come with a request for Instagram; I am prepared for that, too. This cyberparenting thing isn’t as scary as I thought!
Cyberparenting is the new normal. We are raising the first generation of children with unlimited access to information. It will take a lot of work to do this right, but our relationships will be stronger and our children will be better prepared for life.
Be sure to follow nextTalk on Facebook. Mandy provides helpful articles and encouraging memes to equip cyberparents. You an also find her on her blog,MandyMajors.com, Twitter (@MandyMajors and @nextTalkOrg), and Instagram (@nexttalkorg).
Grab your copy of TALK: A Practical Guide to Cyberparenting and Open Communication from Amazon today! I share a full review on Hollywood Jesus this week. Click here to read more.
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Photo credit: Chevanon Photography.