Well, here we are, saying goodbye to May!! The month certainly went by quickly here.
On Saturday, we dropped our 20-year-old daughter off at the Christian camp where she’s working this summer. Now it’s back to the empty nest for my husband and I!
I haven’t delved much into the subject of teens and technology here on the blog. There are certainly lots of opinions around this topic.
For example, what age is right for children to get cell phones (or should they ever get them?) How much time are they allowed to spend on their phones and other technology? What type of oversight should parents have in these areas as their children get older?
I’m certainly not tackling all of that today! But in case it’s helpful for you, I am sharing five rules we had for our children and their cell phones during their teenage years when they lived at home.
We did not do this perfectly. We established several of these rules in the beginning and then added one or two later based on situations that arose. As the first generation of parents to raise kids with so much access to technology, there was definitely a learning curve!
I’m not saying that these rules are foolproof and will prevent your child from ever misusing their phone. They won’t. But they could be a good starting point for conversations that lead your child to set good boundaries for themselves, which is our ultimate goal.
1. No cell phones in the bedroom.
Cell phones were to be used in common areas, like the living/family room, kitchen, and dining room. Exceptions could be made if they were actually using their phone to talk to someone. However, I don’t know many teens who use their cell phones to actually have a voice-to-voice conversation with another person!
2. Cell phones have to be turned off at a certain time at night.
The actual time varied depending on their age. When they first got phones, I believe it was 8 or 9pm. With sports practices and other after-school activities, they usually weren’t getting home until early evening. Otherwise, the cutoff time may have been earlier.
Whatever the designated time was, we set a basket on the kitchen counter where they put their phones and charged them overnight.
3. Family time is phone-free time.
This basically meant no phones at the table, whether we were eating meals at home or out at a restaurant. It would also include other family activities or events.
4. Social media apps on your phone are limited.
Originally we had their phones set up so that we had to approve any app that they wanted to add. We also blocked Internet access on their phones during those early years.
At a certain age, we allowed them to use Instagram. Before we did that, I joined it myself and got familiar with how the app worked. We chose Instagram because it was the one that some of their coaches and other school-related groups used for messaging. They were required to have me as a follower on any accounts that they started.
5. Dad and Mom are your cell phone accountability partners.
We had our girls’ passcodes for their phones as well as their Instagram usernames and passwords. They understood that at any time we had the right to ask to see their phone.
Occasionally, we’d sit down together and scroll through some text messages and/or their Instagram account and browser searches. (Even once they had the Internet, though, we still had filters set to limit what they could access.) More frequently, I would just do a quick check at night or in the morning when their phones were in the kitchen charging.
Keep in mind that, while we didn’t always execute it well, we did have a plan for teaching our girls how to use their cell phones wisely. Restrictions were tight in the beginning. But we wanted to gradually loosen them as our girls matured and showed that they could be trusted to handle the responsibility of the technology.
Once in a while, we had to tighten those restrictions back up for a time or add a new “rule” as things developed. They made mistakes. However, they made them while we were there to discuss those mistakes and hopefully guide them into making better choices in the future. Our goal was that by the time they left for college, they’d have a good understanding of how to use their cell phone as a tool and avoid the pitfalls it could lead to.
One of the greatest teaching tools with technology is the same as in any area of parenting. It’s the example we set. So do we need any of these rules in our own lives?
Do we need to shut our phones down at a certain time at night? Is family time also phone-free time for us? Do we need an accountability partner, whether for how much time we spend on our devices or for the content we’re consuming?
Know that I’m speaking to myself with those questions as much – if not more – than I am to anyone else!
We won’t find a Bible verse that specifically addresses cell phone usage. Yet there are certainly Bible principles that we can apply to the subject. And for today, I’ll leave us with just this one.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. ~1 Corinthians 10:31
May God give us wisdom to examine our own lives and then to teach our teenagers how to handle this technology in a God-honoring way.
- 5 Helpful Steps to Parenting Your Teenager Well
- What to Do When Your Teenager Disappoints You
- 10 Ways to Build a Relationship with Your Teenager