Raise your hand if you have children born in two different decades. Raise your hand if you are struggling with parenting in areas you thought you mastered with older children. Raise your hand if you are reading this wondering where did you go wrong as a parent. Lastly if you are reading this and you have raised your hand to at least one of these statements, like or comment bellow so your fellow readers know they aren’t alone.
Listen a year into the pandemic, maybe the last thing you might want to read is something digital related. I get it, but I meet parents everyday who are struggling with raising children with a healthy relationship with their digital devices. Over the next few weeks I am going to share some tips to keep your preteens and teens safe online.
It’s not a one and done task keeping our children safe online. Well it could be, if you don’t get your child a smart phone or tablet before the age of 15. But if you like 90% of parents, it’s too late. Children are getting access to their own devices as early as 7 years old. Its all cute when you catch your child in a mirror talking to their imaginary YouTube audience do toy reviews and make tutorials. Fast forward to the 12 year old who has a melt down after you have taken away their devices, go to school an accuse you of the worst abuse as a response of that punishment. Or shouts obscenities at you for daring to take away their lifelines. If this isn’t happening in your home, stand up and take a bow and maybe this series isn’t for you. As a matter of fact share what you have done to help others.
A little about me. I am a 47 year mother of a 26 year old son, 15 year old daughter, and 13 year old son. Yes, let that settle in. So I was speaking of myself having birth a child in the 90’s and two in the 2000’s. My oldest got his first phone at 10 because his grandmother was on our plan and we were still in contract and she wanted to get her own cell phone plan. My oldest was one of his friends to have his own friend, 15 years later if my children didn’t have their own phone, they would be one of their only friends not to have a phone. In 2007 Apple introduced the sleek smartphone that everyone wanted, but at its price point most parents weren’t running out buying their children expensive phones. I want to say in 2010 AT&T started offering plans with affordable phone options so that multi people in the family can enjoy an iPhone. Now fast forward to 2021, if you stop a kid at a middle school, either they have an iPhone or their friend has an iPhone.
Let me be transparent, I belong to an iPhone family. Everyone in my household owns an iPhone. We completely bought into the Apple ecosystem. In the beginning being an iPhone family, I assumed that my kids were safe with their phones with minimal over site oby me. I would take their phones as punishments, talk to them about questionable sites, and walk away patting myself on the back thinking I am an amazing parent. Four years ago, I discovered that my 11 year old daughter was texting a stranger using an app I never heard of. A man had sent my baby girl a picture of an erected penis. She didn’t tell me, I only discovered this because I took her and my youngest phones in the middle of the night because I discovered that at 3:00am, they both were on their phones. Over the last four years I have been educating myself as a parent how to keep my children safe and have a healthy use of their digital devices. Fast forward to 2019 and I transitioned from an adult protective services social worker to a child protective services social worker. Now I won’t be sharing any of the stories from the families I work with, but I did discover I wasn’t alone. This problem crosses social and economic demographics.
This will be a part of a four part series looking at cell phones, wifi routers, computers/tablets, and parenting advice that I provide as a professional who is also a parent. My hope is to create material that could be given to parents at schools and to field workers like myself who are running it these problems with families they work with. Join me next week as I explore putting parental controls on your children’s Android and iPhones.