Give me the Black Plague any day. I am, on a regular basis, wishing I was born in a different time era, as I figure pestilences and industrial revolutions are nothing compared to negotiating technology with teenagers. For the plague, I will find a natural remedy for it online. Oh wait… no technology? Errr…
Geez, I know the good and evil side of this coin too well. I know technology helps us so much, and I certainly couldn’t live without it, but these “digital natives” are freaking terrifying to this particular “digital immigrant.” I have listened to all the talks, read all the books, and I also feel for myself how addictive a smartphone can be, how difficult to put down, how it makes me feel so inadequate compared to what I’m seeing online.
Dangerous, oh so dangerous. And the horrors of watching my kids:
Shopping online. Oodles of money spent without oodles of wisdom. And months of our lives stressing over things shipping from the far reaches of Asia, then chasing them around all the local post offices here.
Messaging. Misconstrued emojis, dares demanding responses, profile pictures screaming for attention. A certain 12 year old was dared to be someone’s “bae” for a day, and it ended up being three weeks. My blood was turning cold when the message came in, “♥Hey, bae*.” 12 years old?? Hell, no. Bye, bae. Stress, angst and rants about how someone can blue-tick someone else, and not actually respond. Assumptions, reactions, and retaliating with blue-tick-but-not-responding too. It’s ridiculous, and I’m losing my mind.
*bae- Urban Dictionary says it’s an acronym that stands for “before anyone else,” or a shortened version of baby or babe, another word for sweetie, and, mostly unrelated, poop in Danish. LOL- I like the Danes’ version!
Youtube. Of course the dude who stumbled across the body of a man who had committed suicide, and continued filming the vlog for whatever reasons may have been going through his unprincipled thick head. My kids were following him. Closely. Close enough to merit a long conversation to determine whether my kids were thinking the same things as the thick dude.
Stalking. My kids do get stalked, but mostly by me. I am only on Instagram to raise my blood pressure, and to send random texts to my older children to question WHY they would LIKE that picture, when she’s pretty much half naked? Or weird comments that are made, with language or sexual innuendos. (Thinking ahead here, what will your wife/employers think?) Maybe I should have just been Amish, not 14th-century black-plague-era.
Peer pressure is no longer just in the classrooms or the playgrounds or at friend’s parties. It comes right into our kids’ bedrooms and changes their worldview without us even knowing.
I feel like those poor, overwhelmed officials at the entrance gates to a Justin Bieber concert. They have to deliberately check each person’s ticket, and make sure each person get the stamp of approval before entry. Even when they have groupies screaming in their ears, and thumping music is drowning out their thinking, they have to check each one, methodically, carefully, patiently. I’m doing that daily with videos, chat groups, relationships, and the noise is deafening. Why? Because they got their phones into their hands before their heads matured. Whatever filter should have been built in didn’t stand a chance before the barrage began. I think I shall picket with other stressed out parents, and we can scream together, “No phones before they’re eighteen…teens without screens!”
At one juncture, after much frustration with a particular repeat offender (deleting message history, then harshly questioning our reasonable requests to reduce the amount of time spent watching videos, etc.), I was crashing the dishes around in the sink while I bawled into the dishwater. That’s it. I’m done. I’m going to leave him to get on with it, and he can deal with whatever consequences result. He’s on his own. Much revelation is to be found in the sink, however, and very clearly, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “But you are the manager.” (Of the technology, not the dishes, although I am also in charge of those.) If I didn’t do it, no-one was going to do it, and no-one would train my child in etiquette, language, ethics, principles, relationships and communication.
It was weird, but to hear the authority and the responsibility be so clearly designated to me did not overwhelm me, but it steeled my resolve. And here’s what’s happened in our home since.
1.We train in the battle ground. There is no learner’s license here, no theory exam, no practice arena. We’re all thrown in to this huge mix of communication, temptation, addiction, distraction. We have to negotiate it as we go, oversee how they react and respond, and walk them through their mistakes, the offences taken and the offences caused, and how to deal with each situation as it arises. On this note, the rules of engagement have to be very clearly laid out in the beginning, so that they know what is expected. In the midst of battle, there’s no re-negotiation! As a family, we drew up a contract that would provide these boundaries clearly, based on Janelle Burley Hoffman’s template. These boundaries, however, can be adjusted- see #3. 2. We learn to cope without it. On a school day, the 12 and 14 year old don’t SEE their phone until lunch time. This is a grand feat for a homeschooling family, can I just tell you, because without calculators and music, the children feign death, so now I play classical music if they want it, and lo, they’ve survived. Please note, this doesn’t always work. Like today, they picked up their phones at the 11:30 am break, “forgetting” the rules of engagement (see #1). Freak out, yelling and berating, answered by pleading innocence, and cherubic surprise at the outcry.
We also have a phone-free time between 5 and 7 pm, Heath and I included. The kids surface from their bedrooms, and skulk around in complete and utter boredom for about 10 minutes, before they find something else to do without even realising it. Homework gets done, they shower, and they even read papery things… the whole thing is miraculous. It just lessens that dependence a little, and reminds them that they can actually get by without the constant ‘fix.’ I am learning to ignore the whining that two hours is too long. I restrain myself from screaming, “Do you even know what I could do with my life in TWO WHOLE, undistracted and uninterrupted HOURS??”
3. Adjust the reigns accordingly. Showing self-control when it comes to time on their tech leads to more freedom. In the same way, when chores are forgotten, responsibilities are neglected, or they begin to run late for stuff, we reign ‘em in. We’ve become good at this, because the nagging/yelling/crying that had to be executed to get stuff done around here was about to kill me.
4. The background app of God’s word must always be on ‘refresh.’ I’ve realised that with tech, there’s no point modifying the behaviour, but it needs an examination of the underlying character. The instruction shouldn’t be, “Don’t use bad language,” but rather, “Do not let foul, profane, worthless, or vulgar words ever come out of your mouth (texts), but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear (read).” Adapted a little from Ephesians 4:29. It’s not a language issue, it’s a character, people-pleasing, needing-to-seem-cool issue, which is so much deeper. The wisdom of man just won’t cut it.
“Don’t send/ask for naked pictures,” becomes, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” from 1 Samuel 16:7, which helps you to dig deeper into judgement of appearance, rather than character- for themselves, and for others. We have vetoed many wonderful photos of abs on certain profile pics around here.
“Don’t respond to a message when angry or in high emotion,” etc. “He who has knowledge restrains and is careful with his words, and a man of understanding and wisdom has a cool spirit, self-control, an even temper.” Proverbs 17:27 The higher the emotions, the lower the clarity of thought, incorporated with teenage brains which are already murky, spells disaster.
If the principles are being taught into the psych consistently, hopefully they will be the building blocks of the character. Let’s keep building, people! An audio chapter on the way to school, a devotion together here and there, random sharing of your favourite scriptures over dinner- get it in!
It’s exhausting, I’m exhausted. But we’re gonna be okay. And we’re off duty when THEY have kids. That’s when we sit back and laugh, and say, “Yep. Good luck with that,” and let them borrow our picket sign.
May the lessons learned in the quiet or the chaos lead you closer to Him.
Lots of love,