As a father of a 20-year-old, 18-year-old, and a 16-year-old, I have faced the challenges of the cell phone, and the distractions that it has added to 21st-century family life. We have had many “dumb” phones and “smart” phones for our teenagers along the way. They have been used for keeping in touch with our kids, and they have helped them stay connected to their world.
Over the years, we have established guidelines for cell phone use in our family. When cell phones were not used appropriately, the teenager would be grounded from their phone for a period of time and/or downgraded to a “dumb” phone. These consequences have been effective, and we have had many conversations along the way encouraging proper use and balance for one’s life. Yet, even with consequences and conversations, the cell phone continues to be a 21st-century parenting challenge that is not for the faint at heart.
The reality is that when a cell phone is introduced into any our lives, not just our teens, it can become a distraction and keep us from life-giving relationships. A recent article in The Atlantic discusses this issue and the effect on this generation. Much of the commentary and research in the article rings true in my experiences with my kids and others.
So what should we do as parents and educators? The cell phone and other technologies are not going away. They are going to be in the hands of our children. My best advice is to keep up the good fight of modeling balance, proper use and encouraging our teenagers to develop positive habits as well. And … we need to start the conversation early, even before the teen years. To help with this, I have linked a video of a children’s book (If You Give a Mouse an iPhone) that might be useful to spark a conversation with your tweens, even before a cell phone gets into their hands. I hope you enjoy the video and God bless as you travel this 21st-century parenting journey with your kids.