You will never outsmart your child when it comes to technology and there is always a work around. The sooner you come to terms with that, the better off you will be.
All children need conversations about online behavior, limits, safety and self regulation. For some, that seems to be enough. A reminder here and there and at least for now, you're good to go. Many kids, however, don’t hear a word you say it seems, and controls aren’t just a good idea but they are necessary. My advice is that you can’t lean exclusively on either. If you have an impulsive, rebellious or determined child and you think controls will stop them long term, you are fooling yourself. If you think that as your perfect child ages that because you have explained the rules they won’t push the envelope in some way eventually, you are too.
GET BUY IN FIRST
What you need to have for both of these strategies to work is BUY IN from your kid. They have to buy in and either accept that the controls are there to protect them and to not violate the agreement to have them (and if they bump up against those limits you’ll get the notifications and come down like a hammer for significant or repeated issues), or they have to be able to truly articulate to you that they understand what you are saying and then buy in to the teachings.
It’s not easy for some parents and kids to get to that stage. It won’t happen over night and there will be some messy situations on the way. But you can’t give up. Use outside resources. Find an adult friend to talk with you to your kid, a school resource officer, a school counselor, a police offer that works with juveniles, a criminal attorney who deals with kids, a judge, a local politician, even a kid who has been down that road before. Not scare tactics, but a strong dose of reality tactics. Utilize anyone who will sit with you and your child and give it to them straight. It takes a village. We know that, and yet parents often deal with these issues with shame and secrecy.
BE SPECIFIC WITH YOUR REASONS FOR RULES
My recommendation is to schedule a time with no busyness, no distractions, no emotional hangover from last night’s argument, etc, and sit down with your child. Prepare for that meeting like your life depends on it. Talk to them about why you worry, what can happen, how it feels in your heart when they make bad choices online.
Have videos, have charts, have examples from other parents online. If you need some, let me know. Be SPECIFIC. When you talk about the dangers of sexting or making comments about violence online, show them EXACTLY what child pornography charges look like in your state. Show them the comments of a dad who is so livid about a boy asking his daughter for photos that he’d like to beat the you know what out of him. Show them the countless stories of girls having to move because their pictures have gotten around. Look it up online together and show them EXACTLY what felony charges entail. Be specific. Show them the story of someone trying to put their life together after receiving a felony charge.
When I ask kids at presentations what they think will happen if they get caught sharing nudes online, they always say the same thing. “I’ll get in trouble.” I ask “What does that mean?” They say they will get grounded, get their phone taken away, or maybe have to talk to police or “get a ticket”. They do not understand that minors can be charged (even if the pictures are between themselves and a significant other), and what the sex offender registry is or that they could be on it. BE SPECIFIC.
AFTER YOU LAY OUT THE PATH, BE CONSISTENT
Will all kids listen? No. Will kids still do dumb things and rebel? Yes, absolutely, and you must be prepared for that. And if you set the limits (no phones in bed at night, limited time, whatever the case may be), BE CONSISTENT. And if that means putting down your own phone to go get theirs because they’ve abused the agreement, do it!
In your agreement, lay out the consequences, including when they will be stuck with a flip phone or no phone, what the consequences will be if they get someone else’s phone from school or if you catch them lying. And yes, you both should sign it.
Then love on them. Tell them you are learning with them. Look at your own habits with technology and be honest and open about what changes you need to make.
RECOGNIZE YOU MAY NEED OUTSIDE HELP FOR YOUR CHILD
Will some kids STILL push and pull and rebel? Yes. And that’s when you evaluate whether they need additional help in terms of therapy or whatever the case may be, and then do everything you can to get it for them and participate in the solutions.
It’s hard. It’s challenging. But when you and your child get to the other side (and it really can happen), it’s an amazing thing.
Habits with technology are formed regardless. Whether they are good or bad ones are up to both of us (parent and child) every single day. Just like in all aspects of life. Habits form based on actions. Actions taken today - not tomorrow, not when vacation is over, but right now.
You can do it! They can do it! But you’ll only be successful if you do it together! ❤️