Today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind for a while now. As a parent, I often find myself looking ahead in my thoughts, pondering my child’s future. Common thoughts of mine include, what activities will my child be interested in? will he be more artistically or athletically inclined? How do I think I’ll approach curfews, rules, expectations? Once I get into this line of thinking, a particularly harrowing question will then surface in my brain: How will I manage the technology in my son’s life when he’s a teenager???
I’ll be honest: I am more or less petrified about how technology and my son will co-exist as he grows up; it scares the bejeezus outta me. And, I know I’m not alone: I’ve had countless talks with friends about how we as parents are going to manage our teens and technology. I worry that my son will be exposed to a variety of non-parent-approved content at a young age, whether it be something he sees on a peer’s tablet while riding the school bus, or something he logs onto without my knowledge or understanding of what it is (very plausible, seeing as I’m not very current with the technologies out there!).
I know the recommendation is to be involved with our children in discussions and to set expectations around their use of social media. Also, I know as adults we are supposed to monitor our child’s internet use, but let’s be real: if my child really wants to sign up for a Facebook account when he’s older (okay, maybe it will be something else by that time) and not let me in on it, he totally could! He could also sign up for countless other apps or programs without my knowledge, for that matter. I could tell him that I want to review his texts/emails every once in a while, but again, let’s be honest: he can just delete the ones he doesn’t want me to see. (I’m not quite hyperventilating here, but I am definitely concerned about all of this stuff). I can and will set time frames around when devices can be used and when they are handed in for the night, but again, if he wants to, my son will surely be able to get into plenty of shenanigans during the daytime hours!
If I could have it my way, I’d like to keep my child under a rock: no cell phone, no tablet, no internet. That way I’d know for sure that he is not accessing inappropriate media, sending or receiving compromising photos or developing connections with questionable people online. Yet, unfortunately, I know this is not a realistic solution; my son likely wouldn’t have any friends. I can’t deny my future teenager the opportunity to connect with his peers, and at this point, cell phones and computers are the way that adolescents often choose to communicate.
When I calm myself down enough to think more realistically, I inevitably come back to the same idea: it is about trust. I will have to learn to trust my future teenaged son to make healthy choices online, over text, etc. Also, trust is based on a solid relationship. Meaning, that it is absolutely vital that I cultivate a strong, positive, mutually-respectful relationship with my son so that he will (well, mostly – he’ll be a teenager after all!) comply with the expectations myself and his dad set with respect to technology.
That’s all I’ve got so far. Do you have any ideas/tricks/strategies that work for your family? For those of you with teenagers (or pre-teens for that matter) in today’s world, how do you manage their technology use?
I’d love any feedback that you have on this topic, because I know it’s on the minds of many parents out there!