By Trish Pannuto
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Teens Smuggle Burner Phones to Defy Parents, shared the Van Every family’s struggle to contain their daughter’s access to a cell phone after hours. The four-year battle began with the then 14-year-old daughter downloading apps such as Kik and SnapChat against her parents’ wishes and objecting to her parents’ limit of no cell phones after 8 pm. The resourceful teen began to sneak her phone out of her parents’ room after hours. After getting caught multiple times, she began to acquire so-called burner phones which, the article enlightened me, are available for sale from some entrepreneurial teen in just about every high school.
The parents crafted cell phone rules and the consequences for infractions. The daughter described the enforcement—and her mother concurred—as inconsistent, often losing her phone for longer than the agreed upon period. Fast forward to the age of 16 when the daughter began sending provocative pictures to a boyfriend. The parents, bankrupt of ideas when she refused to provide her parents with the passcode for the phone, said that “they didn’t want to enable her behavior and told her that if she wouldn’t abide by their rules, she could move out.” And that she did.
The article brought to mind Dr. Michael Bradley’s presentation at our Noted Parenting Author Talk several years ago. In his talk Dr. Bradley used “going to the mat,” a wrestling metaphor, to describe similar scenarios. He said that we can threaten to take our teen’s bedroom door off its hinges and remove every stick of furniture, leaving nothing but the floor boards, and still not get our kids to capitulate or even cede to our point of view. Perhaps this escalation is what happened to the Van Every family.
For better or for worse, cellphones and technology are here to stay. Despite our best efforts to manage our kids’ use of technology, it strains and ruins relationships.
Every class here at PEP includes parents expressing anger and exasperation about managing screen time. We describe anger as a symptom of an underlying issue, such as feeling hurt or fearful for our children’s safety. Maybe parents despair about cell phones and technology is emblematic of our:
So what’s one to do?
Like all important topics, the conversations we have with our kids about technology are not one and done. The technology will change and as your kids demonstrate greater responsibility, your boundaries should, too. Limits will be tested, agreements will be broken and there will be feelings, it’s what you do in these moments that really matter.
With that in mind, I will make an argument for developing some skills around connection and communication. In fact, the communication strategies that you’ll learn in our classes extend beyond parenting and apply to all of your relationships at home and at work. We have two, four-week online classes beginning June 1st, Encouragement! Building Your Child’s Confidence from the Inside Out and Redefining Discipline: A No Gimmicks Guide to Raising Responsible, Respectful Kids. We’re taking the month of July off, so don’t wait, register today!