The most challenging “banana moment” for the modern parent is when to issue your child a smart phone. It is a rite of passage that carries with it privileges, responsibilities and dangers tantamount to handing over the keys to the car. And it happens typically around middle school or upper grammar school grades. One of the reasons why it is so challenging to parent youth with mobile devices is that they are empowered by the feeling of no limits to communication, and they will naturally be resistant to parental oversight – especially when shame-inspired content transpires (i.e., sexting, bullying, gossip). And it is easy to keep secrets because cyber connectivity is so clandestine.
Compounding this situation, the parenting paradigm of previous generations is much less effective in our hyper-connected world; it is a paradigm of prevention which presumes an element of parental control much less possible with apps and devices. And yet the divine authority to govern the home with cyber-safe discipline and impart the wisdom of your chosen faith has never been more important. In this regard, below are three signs that you are ready to equip your child with a smart phone:
1._Proper motivation on your part. This is not about giving into your child’s desperate plea for her own mobile phone. You have a healthy interest in who your child is and their interests, such that your monitoring the cyber communications will not be perceived as a breach of trust or privacy. There is great confusion between trust and faith, and private and secret. Parents need to be confident that they should never allow their child to have privacy on-line, and that trust among humans is always verifiable while faith we reserve for God because He requires no proof. A good rule of thumb at home is that the parent “inspects what he or she expects.” Tell your child that you expect they are making good decisions, and you expect to catch them doing things right. And if they need correction, you will do it mercifully and with confidence (such as how to redirect gossip to end it) and give your child a chance to make things right on their own. You have a short set of cyber-safe house rules that serve as guidance for regulating use of devices and apps, and offer conversation points about what is happening on and off-line.
2._You recognize the character traits of a trustworthy person in your child’s behavior. You have confidence in your child’s trustworthy character to keep you informed about things that disturb their peace (gossip, bullying, inappropriate content). Elements of trustworthy character might be: honesty, kindness, helpful, courteous, etc.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
3. _You recognize the value of undivided attention. You are prepared to spend time understanding and discussing the on-line activities that interest your child. This means that you will be giving your child undivided attention, to be present – even if your child is not giving you undivided attention. The most important thing the modern parent must communicate to their tech-savvy kids is to be fully present, without an agenda. Giving undivided attention on a regular basis is a very strategic way to let your child become comfortable in your presence and eventually decompress and share what is happening in their life, on and off-line. If you are not sure how to do this, start by giving your child permission to interrupt you (and give them a sign to do it). In our family, the kids were told to hold up their fingers like a V, a peace sign, so they could politely interrupt, and then they would wait patiently knowing that I would put the conversation on hold, or stop what I was doing and give them my complete attention. The management of attention is personal power. The sooner our children learn how to receive and give undivided attention, the better equipped they will be to deal with the FOMO (Fear of Mission Out) pressure of mobile connectivity – and take charge of their own heart and mind.
To learn more about creating a family culture that builds trust, promotes open communication and fosters individual resilience in a cyber-powered world, go to Fresh Start.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. Trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, she is a mother of two grown sons, an author of books on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.
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Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.