The Bane of my Life…..

I think it is so difficult being a teen these days.  Maybe it always was.  But the gamut of feelings surely must be intensified under the magnifying glass of social media.  It is a conundrum really as parents as to how much we allow.  I have a daily battle against the concerns of social media verses the necessity of the children learning to master it.  Whilst I would like to avoid it altogether, wisdom tells me that pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t (unfortunately) make it go away.  I know that part of the guiding years of childhood is preparing our youngsters to one day become a fully fledged adult, and preparing them for the adulthood they will experience; not the adulthood I experienced, nor in fact, the adulthood I wish they would experience in that parental utopia of my mind.  They need to be taught to handle not just money, exams and friends but also that ‘all important’ social media.

The twins were kindly bought a smart phone each by their brother for their fourteenth birthday.  Since then I have noticed their creativity (especially Lillie) decrease and their anxiety increase.  They had limits, but clearly not enough.  We have never allowed any screens in their bedrooms; they all have the accountability app (Covenant Eyes) meaning they could not access that which we deemed inappropriate; they were not allowed to use their phones or computers after nine or before chores were done in the morning.  These boundaries were far stricter than the majority of their friends and yet we still saw how adversely the screens affected them.  To be available to their friends and acquaintances for 14 out of every 24 hours was wearing them down.  If any friends were struggling, they would know immediately via a text, messenger or snap chat.  I think at no time in history have teens been exposed to this amount of ‘socialising’, and its immediacy and constancy can be overwhelming.

So Gary and I have been clawing our way back from freedoms we allowed the teens with their phones which have, in hindsight, been too much for them to handle.  Let me say, it is much harder setting stricter rules after the fact, than setting strict rules from the start.  After much discussion we stopped the usage of phones after 8pm, so as to give the older ones an hour of uninterrupted relaxation watching a film, and preventing them going to bed over stimulated and worried by something which they had seen posted on one social media or another.  And we asked that they kept their phone and computer use to under three hours per day, including any school work they did online.  Let’s just say we are getting there……Their friends are horrified by the number of rules we have attached to their screen time yet I honestly feel like we have not got enough.

So I am posing a question today.  How do you all handle phone and computer use?  What rules or guidance do you give your teen regarding their handling of devices?  And how much is too much – how much is too little?  I would really value your input.  I definitely feel like we are getting to a place where their screens are not affecting them too detrimentally.  Lillie chose to delete snapchat, which was the social media she felt most negatively affected by, and her creativity has sprung back, and she is so much happier.  But she chose to do that herself after I recommended it.  This is so much better than me demanding it.  I would so appreciate your input as to how you deal with this.  And please do share even if you have wildly different opinions than me  🙂

23 comments

  1. Ugg! We are struggling with this issue as well. We see it as harmful to our son’s bruised self esteem. He doesn’t think anything is special about him because you can go online and find someone who can do whatever you do much better. We never allowed snapchat ~ it is just a bullying sight for the most part. We do allow instagram with a private account. They know that we will be spot checking their conversations. Right now I am watching every single word that passes through Instagram.since my phone is connected with my son’s account. We are also working with the parents of our kids friends to encourage face to face interaction when there is deep emotions involved. As for limits~ no phones in bedrooms past 8:30 pm, don’t say or post anything you wouldn’t show your grandmother and hold your friends to the same standards. My friend just told me about this movie and website ~ http://www.screenagersmovie.com/. I haven’t looked at it yet, but it may be helpful. Many of us are struggling with this issue.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.
      I like your ‘don’t post anything you wouldn’t say to your grandmother’ idea – I might adopt that! We have always said to be wary of what they post because employers often do google searches on potential employees.
      Thanks for your input Dawn!

  2. I’m following this discussion. My oldest is only 10, so we haven’t entered the realm of social media yet (and will hold out as long as we can!), but the time is coming. I agree that being in such constant contact makes being an emotional teen so much harder.

    1. Yes, we have really found that being in constant contact with their equally emotional friends is not good for them. It’s reaching a balance I guess. I remember being on the phone to my friends for hours each day after school. It was land line but I guess the contact aspect if fairly similar.
      Thanks for stopping by Dana.

  3. I think you are doing a phenomenal job… God blessed you with joy and responsibility of being their mother… and you are doing what you know is best for them! As an adult, I struggle with the “pressure” of taking on people’s issues, which are brought to my attention via my phone or the forums I am on. I got rid of Facebook many years ago, and while I have an Instagram account I am hardly ever on it. Snapchat is not allowed in the house, due to the lack of accountability (If I’m not mistaken, you can erase what you say or it disappears, after the damage is already done). I do have Whatsapp, which we use to talk to friends in Germany. My teen is allowed to use it… on my phone. While she is extremely mature for her age, we do not feel it necessary for her to have a phone as of yet. We allow her to befriend a wide range of people… but I am careful about how much interaction she has with some due to the impact the conversations have on her life for the following days. She uses my email account for right now, though I have every intention of setting up her own for her, with the understanding that I will have the password. Thankfully there is only one computer right now in the house, so too much screen time isn’t too big of an issue, as there are too many of us sharing it 😉 She is open with me about what is going on in her friends’ lives, so that helps as well.

    1. Thanks for your input Shannon! It looks like you have it pretty sussed. I hadn’t ever thought about the temporary element of Snapchat being a negative, but you are right, once it’s done the harm there is no real accountability after the fact (if you see what I mean?)
      Thanks for your input, it was really helpful!

  4. My boys don’t have much access in the way of their own screen and none of them are using any social media sites; yet! I kind of dread the day they do. I have noticed when my older son has his friends over they spend a lot of time Face Timing other friends and sending texts. I am never sure how to handle that when it’s not my child but I do feel like it’s taking away from the time they were supposed to be spending together. I know I only have another year or so at most to figure out how to handle it all and I am not looking forward to that. I already have to put strict limits on video game use for my younger two and it feels like a constant battle to find that happy medium. .

    1. Yes, it’s much harder with other people’s teens in your own house. I kind of wish I had a year to decide. It definitely crept up on me and I feel both Gary and I were unprepared for it.

  5. I’ll be following this too. I think you make a good point that it is easier to set firm rules and then lax them rather than the other way around. No wisdom to offer, but interested in what others will say.

  6. My oldest is 14. I am no expert, but I can tell you what we’ve tried. We decided long ago, when she was in elementary that FaceBook would be a no-go until high school at the earliest. She’s now in high school and has never missed having an account. I don’t think it’s as popular amongst her friends anymore anyway, so we dodged that argument. I think they’re on other social media like Snapchat and Instagram

    We got her her first phone at 10 or 11, when she started 6th grade. It was a smart phone because it was one of our hand me downs. The school required they have either a smart phone or a tablet. We deleted Safari and installed a program called Mobicip as her browser, and through our internet provider, we disabled photo texting. As sad as it is, I had heard too many stories of jr high aged kids sending and receiving inappropriate texts, so we decided to limit the risk of her receiving something she shouldn’t, or forwarding something she didn’t understand the implications of…….we started home schooling the next year, so that helped in and of itself a great deal. There wasn’t the pressure to be online all the time.

    She still isn’t asking to get on any of the main social media sites. It’s not her thing. She prefers YouTube and other websites, although I’ve blocked tumblr and reddit type sites for now. Our bigger challenge overall is the comments sections that exist on just about every website out there. They’re cesspits of cruelty and bullying. She likes a writing app/media called Wattpad and the comments on there can be really cutting. The same goes for gaming websites, art sites- pretty much everywhere she likes to spend her time online. Trolls abound. We have lots of conversations about constructive criticism and where to seek it- online from kids your age or younger probably isn’t the right place, I tell her, and encourage to limit her commenting. 🙂 I also have tried to help coach her on how to comment appropriately on the sites she cares about like the writing sites. Our other issue is managing time. If you figure out the secret to that I would love to hear it. I have found the total time on a screen to be the bigger impact rather than what she is using on the screen, if that makes sense. We are on a break and afterwards I am going back to a stricter limitation, as I’ve noticed a mood and attention shift lately. She’s been online much more. Anyway, your question is timely. I will be following along!

    1. I hadn’t even thought about the comments on posts around blogland! I feel like I am quite naive when it comes to the screen, and whilst Gary and I do our best, I don’t think we are quite in a place where I can relax. I wonder as the children get older, if that is a place I will ever be in again. When they are little we can protect them, but as they get older and begin forging their own lives it is much harder. Thank you so much for your input 🙂

  7. If I had my way, there would be no media in our house. How is that for a start?:) All three of our teens have their own laptops that are only allowed in the living room and school room so doing anything that isn’t allowed is very difficult when the screen is there for everyone to see. Our two girls, 17 and 18, each have their own phone, which we do monitor. One daughter has Instagram and I follower her, so I know what she is doing. We have Kindles and Nooks, but those are used for reading only. We monitor past history, and they know if they try to delete anything, we know about it. They know any misuse of media results in it being taken away immediately. I personally have found Facebook to be a waste of time. It has gone from sharing family photos to being a place to gripe and complain. I am thinking of deleting my account altogether. I do prefer Instagram. My blogging has gone by the wayside these days.

    I think time limits is the biggest issue for us. We set limits, but it is hard to keep up with. I hope some have suggestions on how they keep up with it with multiple kids.

    It sounds as if you are doing a great job with media in your home. I know mine are growing up, but I still feel the need to protect them. It is a scary world out there.

    1. I could agree with you more. And worse, it is a scary world which we have no first hand experience (ie multimedia) It is one of the few times in parenting where I simply don’t feel up to the job. I’m terrified I will make the wrong choice and they will be exposed to something they shouldn’t be, or I won’t teach them enough that they will be able to use it responsibly once they are an adult. Parenting sure is tricky sometimes 😦

  8. So far our kids do not have a phone. However they each got a laptop for Christmas because I’m requiring a lot more of their work be one online, and they just got Nook tablets, so first the first time they have something that is not just an e-reader.

    Our rules currently for anything involving screens is one hour and one hour off.

    They do not yet have social media accounts, so I’m still thinking through our rules for that. Now that they’ll be able to take a tablet up to their room I need to start thinking about something like Covenant Eyes…….. Also, how to disable the ability to connect to the internet.

    Lots to think about.

    1. There really is lots to think about and it never ends – there is always something new coming out that as a parent we need to make decisions on.

  9. This is such an interesting topic. My oldest turns 12 this week, so we’re not into social media yet, and he’s not that interested. (My ten year old is very concerned about when she might get her own phone, etc., and our current answer is when she gets her own job.) All my children have tablets and personal video gaming systems. They are very limited in game time during the week (and some weeks game time is nonexistent), but game time is not really regulated from Friday evening until Saturday at bedtime. We only have one television in the house and it is also limited to one or two shows a day during the week, but tends to stay on during the weekends, sometimes for television (especially American football season) and sometimes for video games. . . And I still feel like we get too much screen time! LOL

    1. Yes, I always wonder how much is too much? This is the world our children are growing up in and they need to be able to handle it, but really we are the first generation which has had to deal with the world wide web for our offspring. I’ve really enjoyed everyone’s input and opinions.

  10. I agree that it’s harder to implement new rules after the fact, but I think you’re doing the right thing. We did a U-turn on Instagram, which we felt was encouraging self-obsession. It wasn’t popular, but I think it has been better not to have quite so many selfies being taken with online posting in mind! Thanks for sharing how you’re doing it 🙂

    1. Thank you. We have taken away Snapchat from my girls and they have both looked more relaxed recently and actually thanked me for taking it away yesterday!

  11. We don’t allow social media at all. My husband used to work in information security before moving up in the organization. The things he saw. He has said no social media unless it is necessary. We’ve never found it to be necessary.

    Our 15 year old does have her own phone and iPad. She’s allowed to text her friends. But she can’t hand out her number or email address without approval from a parent. She doesn’t even know her own phone number and has to look it up on her phone each time. Lol!

    We keep track of texting times. She turns off notifications at bedtime. She does have a friend who moved to Africa as a missionary and the time difference is extreme. So we allow texting with her at unusual times.

    In general we prefer her to do face to face communication, but understand that texting is a good way to keep up with her friends. Too much drama is not healthy for our daughter’s anxiety, and we don’t encourage friends who bring drama constantly.

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