Technology S Impact On Tweens And Teen
By Dr. June Stride View more articles
Off in Another World
Shirley Winters was almost ready to head out for a morning of errands when she realized she hadn’t returned her mother’s call. Picking up her cell while rushing out the door, she called. “Hi Mom, how are you doing?”
Her mom, always perceptive and attuned to her daughter’s spoken and unspoken responses, replied “Hi Honey. What’s up? You sound upset about something.”
“Aw, Mom, you don’t miss a thing. Yes, I am upset. Your darling granddaughter, Janetta, got another miserable report card. I’m so discouraged. I was hoping that she would be able to pull up her grades on her exams. She sure didn’t. I haven’t a clue how we will make it through the year.”
“Come on now Shirley, that’s not such a surprise. There’s something else bothering you.”
Shirley thought a minute then continued, “It looks like Janetta and I are heading for an explosion and wish I knew how to avoid it. I’m worried about how she spends her spare time. She talks with her friends, she e-mails, she instant-messages, she “Googles” and surfs. Then I hear her talking on her cell about a chat buddy. Whatever that means. She seems off in another world.”
Shirley Winters isn’t the only parent feeling helpless and upset about a tween/teen. Parents and guardians express concern about the unsupervised time their kids have, especially when parents are working.
Cell phones and Internet as trouble traps
The cell phone and the Internet have given our young people unprecedented independence and access to people, photos and topics about who and which parents may know nothing. Both the cell phone and the Internet have gotten many young people involved in activities that would astound most parents including pornography and casual sex. Unsupervised ‘free’ time and that involvement could lead to dangerous situations and permanent negative consequences.
To snoop or not to snoop?
The last thing you want your children to call you is a snoop yet you also want to be certain that they are not involved in risky activities. Making a decision of how to walk the fine line between not being informed enough and snooping is a major challenge. Some companies see this dilemma as an opportunity for supporting parents. You may want to check out products that capture your kid's web, e-mail & chat records. One example is called Ascentive.com
Does your tween or teen have a cell phone?
Do you know the frequency and nature of the calls on it? Of course not. You haven’t the time or the ability to regulate conversations and phone calls on mobile phones. How about the Internet? Do you monitor your child’s use, the sites visited, involvement in chat rooms? Probably not. You’re busy and perhaps you have succumbed to pressure not to have any type of restrictions on use/access.
Check out the sites your tweens and teens are surfing
Do your own research and reassess the parenting issue. Start by checking out two heavily trafficked teen websites facethejury.com. Spend some time at those sites and check out the links on the left of these sites. Read a few of the bios submitted by kids. (By the way, rethink the age descriptors. A great number of our tweens/teens falsify their ages. Websites and cell phones don’t verify ages. Fabrication is oh, so easy.)
One thing is obvious, the need and desire for peer acceptance and a high peer rating on these sites is enormous, especially for those who have not been too successful in school or too popular with their peers. Teens and tweens with low personal esteem are more prone to falling prey and are likely to do most anything to gain acceptance.
*Take extra precautions. Do not assume that you know what your tween or teen is doing or with whom. Consider moving the computer to the family room so that you can keep an eye on things.
*Make certain you continue to listen to them, to talk with them (not at them) and to supervise them in a loving manner.
*Make certain that they know you sincerely care, that you want to hear what they are thinking about, concerned about and planning.
*Involve them in making healthful and active plans when they are not involved at school, preferably some that relate to their talents, skills and interests.
TIPS for Cheap and healthful activities for tweens/teens:
1. Build up a stronger family tie doing fun, meaningful activities together. (Share dinners together, encourage conversation. Listen. Share your leisure time. Make plans to do things together that all will enjoy.)
2. Check out the neighborhood businesses to see if they have any free training programs aimed at teens and tweens.
3. Check with your local library for special tween/teen programs, supervised classes and trips. (Some offer free computer instruction, book discussion and even tutoring on a variety of subjects. Some libraries/houses of worship have a Senior Citizen mentoring program that allows kids to hook up with and work with talented retired artists, professionals etc. It’s worth looking into.)
4. Check with school guidance counselors for special ‘catch up’ tutoring or enrichment programs. (They may have a recommended reading list that will allow your teen/tween to get a comfortable head start on the new school year.)
5. Talk to your favorite librarians about cool books that tweens/teens have recommended and enjoy. (Bring them home read them yourself so that you can discuss them with your child. Consider trying the audio version as well.)
6. Begin a family tradition of exploring the world, life, humor, society, history etc. through DVDs. (Discuss and agree on topic preferences. Establish a few topics for discussion to connect and weave through as you view a series of different DVDs on the same topic.)
7. Have your tween or teen dream up a ‘family fun day’ for X amount of dollars. (Encourage them to research; map out, price and plan the day prior to presenting the plan to the family for approval and possible implementation.)
8. Work with your tween or teen to plan a get-together for their friends in your home. Let him/her plan the guest list, invitations, activities and foods. Give them a bottom line for a budget and have them check ads in the newspapers and do the shopping/preparation with one or more friends. (Invite a few other parents to come and help supervise. What a great way for you to get to know not only your tweens and teens’ friends but to bond with other parents anxious to provide safe, healthful opportunities and environments for their families.)
9. For more tips and information on how to be sure your teenager is using the web responsibly visit: internet safety for kids.