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Back when my kids were 11-12ish, they wanted handheld Nintendo thingys. I wasn’t very thrilled with that. I thought maybe an iPod would be better- they could listen to audiobooks, music, and have a better selection of games. Even though we turned off the internet browser, it was the WORST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE. It opened the floodgates of cellphones (because let’s face it-an iPod is really a smartphone, except we can’t call each other.) It was a bad mistake because I really didn’t understand what I was opening up our family to, and we didn’t have a plan in place for dealing with it.
We’ve heard it a lot: We are the first generation of parents that needs to manage 24/7 access to media, the internet, and peers due to cell phones and technology. While owning cell phones used to be the exception for teens, now it’s the norm. It’s the uncommon teen that DOESN’T have a cell phone. It’s easy for parents to worry about the different problems this brings and how to solve them: pornography, online predators, consumerism and the threat of mental disorders from social media, are all enough to want to make us want to hide under a rock!
Wifi, phones and all the rest can be fantastic tools and have made life easier in a lot of ways. But they can also TAKE OVER life in a lot of ways. How do we manage internet usage, phones, and media consumption? It can be daunting to find answers to all the questions we have: How does technology affect our kids? Do we need an internet filter? Which one? When should I give my child a phone? What kind of phone? How do I make sure they are using social media in a healthy way?
I don’t have all the answers. And really, I think the answers are different for each family and sometimes, for each child within the family. However, I do have some “go-to” resources that have made a huge difference in our family– I hope they help you, too!
Collin started the #SaveTheKids movement and goes across the country speaking about phones and social media usage to parents and teens. His real superpower lies in using science to show teens the effects of phones and social media use on their mental health. Then, he uses the same science to educate parents about how to manage tech in their families–but also to be more aware of their own usage and the message they are sending to their kids when they use it. Sounds great, right?
Well. . . it’s WAAAAAY better than great. It’s effective. Kids love him (they think he’s super cool!) and he makes parents cry. Kids delete their Instagram and Snapchat apps off their phones after listening to him. Some teens share with him about how they were ready to commit suicide because of their experiences on social media, but how after hearing him talk, they decided they wanted to live. Parents share about how they have changed their own habits and how they have “gotten their kids back”, after their child deleted social media apps off their phones.
You can arrange for Collin to come to your town or school and it’s one of the best things you could ever do. To get a taste of what Collin does, take a look at his TedX talk, or find him on Instagram (Ironic, right? But he has to get his message out somehow–even if he is trying to put them out of business! *wink*)
Experts and parents use this Facebook group to get information out and to share reviews of phones, filters, apps, and other products. I LOVE IT. Are you wondering if your child can get around a certain parental control on their phone? These guys will know. Wondering which home internet filter is the best? Ask them!
Better Screen Time creator Andrea is pretty much at the top of my list of WISE and HELPFUL people. It’s an honor to know her personally- we go back several years from when we both helped out at Power of Moms. (FABULOUS organization, by the way! Definitely check them out!)
Anyway, when Andrea was trying to solve the conundrum of phones in her own family, she searched and searched for answers–but couldn’t find a holistic family solution that included buy-in from kids. So she created one! Her course is called “Creating a Tech Healthy Family” and it will knock your socks off with how healthy, wise, realistic, forward-looking and adaptable it is.
Guys- I’m not exaggerating when I say that her work will be an answer to prayer for you. It is AMAZING. And it’s not just for families with teens.
- It’s for adults who want to set their own boundaries,
- It’s for parents with small children who are looking to the future, and
- It’s for families like mine, that got into phones and technology without clear boundaries and are now having to do a little bit of damage control and retrenching.
If you aren’t quite ready for a full course, be sure to check out her totally free “When You Feel Like Doing Nothing” Screen-Free Cheat Sheet– which has over 100 screen-free ideas for when you and your family are tired. She also has other fantastic resources on her website about how to know when to give your teen a phone, how to handle road trips without screens, and lots of other super helpful ideas. Please, please, please- take a look at what she offers. You will not regret it– I promise!
I hope these resources are helpful- they have been invaluable to me. Just a friendly tip: The Tech Healthy Family course is only available until THIS SATURDAY at midnight. It will open and close periodically so Andrea can really focus on the families who take the course.
Good luck to all of us as we try to navigate this tricky situation!