Social media and texting can inspire a very isolating experience for youth, with chronic stress that can lead to health issues (such as anxiety and depression). And because cyber technology is in every nook and cranny of our lives, home is no longer a sanctuary.
In a recent feature by Dr. Brian McDonough on CBS Station in Philadelphia, he expresses an urgent need for youth to have parents who are appropriately involved in their lives. According to McDonough: “It has to do with the realization that our homes are no longer sanctuaries for many of our kids,” because social media and texting is a constant, presence. There is literally no place to go and leave the cyberbullying, drama and peer pressure behind. McDonough further stresses: “It is important to recognize this and be as involved as much as you appropriately can in your children’s lives — including their internet world. The role of parents is ever changing and this is one example.”
Parents can be a welcome asset to buffer the isolating impact of cyber communications by putting their trust into the thoughts that bring about peace and empower others. The core of this trust is the mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible: that every individual, including your teen, has God-given power to choose and take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions, on and off line. When parents of all faiths, including atheists, accept this universal truth about the liberty that already belongs to the soul as a divine right, then it is possible to govern the home with a heart at peace, establish a sense of order with a short set of house rules, and make home more like a sanctuary for tech-savvy teens who are feeling the pressure of the world with great intensity.
Tips for connecting with your tech-savvy teen
Create house rules that engage, not dominate, your teen. Eliminate power struggles at home so that your child can find a measure of peace. Establish a short set of house rules that have a benefit to the individual and the family, and ultimately serve as conversation points about what is happening in your teen’s life. When your primary objective with house rules is to teach your teen how not to give up personal power to the bully, drug or the device, then it is possible to maintain open dialogue and impart your wisdom. (For more about creating a family culture that operates more like a sanctuary with a short set of house rules, go to: Fresh Start).
Recognize that your opinion and wisdom are not the same thing. Every time your teen hears you talking negatively about another situation with a peer getting caught with drugs, alcohol or bullying; every time you are carping or offering a critical opinion of other people and events in the headlines, the signal you give your teen is that it is not safe to talk about things that disturb their peace. They perceive you as a judge, and not a trusted resource for receiving wisdom.
It is important to recognize that your opinion, is just that. It is an opinion that belongs to you, with limited understanding based upon your life experience up to this point in time. While wisdom are the simple truths that come from the heart of God – as expressed in Scripture – that never change; they are eternal.
So when you encounter your teen in a very hostile or troubled state of heart and mind, rather than offering your opinion, offer to share some thoughts or insights that you think might help. Ask her does she want to know what you know about a circumstance or situation. Chances are great she will want to know. Then when you do offer insights, be clear about what you are imparting as wisdom (i.e., something is only true if you allow it in your own mind, [Romans 12:2]), versus your opinion (i.e., I am very disappointed in or angry about what happened and expect these steps should be taken next).
Focus on talking less, and listening more. In all of their most joyful and disappointing moments, teens are seeking validation by having someone listen to their experience and witness their pain and joy without judgment. This means that if there are negative consequences from a risky choice such as under-age drinking, for example, the parent does not impose the consequence with anger – but with compassion and hope that your child will learn to make better choices. If on the other hand we are armed with our opinions about what to think and what to do, or freak out when something risky or disappointing happens, then home is less likely to become a place where it feels safe to unpack what is happening, and think clearly about what to do next, and seek wise counsel. What matters more than what you think, is what your child thinks. In all things, encourage your child to think for himself and seek wisdom. (James 1:5)
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.