Price­less tips for par­ents


IT IS rare that I meet a girl who doesn’t have a phone in her hand. She usu­ally has at least one eye on her on­line sta­tus while she is talk­ing to me. Some may find this rude, but I per­son­ally don’t. I un­der­stand why. If teenagers aren’t on­line they don’t ex­ist, so they stay con­nected 24/7. They don’t want to be in­vis­i­ble, just in case they miss out.

Our daugh­ters have a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with their phones. They can’t live hap­pily with them but they also can’t live with­out them. They ad­mit to be­ing ad­dicted. In fact, the av­er­age teenage girl sends 4050 texts per month. That is more than six texts per wak­ing hour. That is why they need us (rather than want us) in­volved in their on­line world. With­out us it is highly pos­si­ble they could lose their way.

Mums tell me that al­though their daugh­ters may not be send­ing nude im­ages or talk­ing to pae­dophiles, they are con­stantly dis­tracted and dis­en­gaged. They are not pay­ing enough time to their school­work, fam­ily time or day-to-day jobs. It’s like this gen­er­a­tion is in a re­la­tion­ship with their phones in­stead of be­ing in re­la­tion­ship with the peo­ple who love them. They are not present in their ac­tual lives.

Deal­ing with a so­cial me­dia ob­sessed teen is tricky. Let’s face it there are no magic so­lu­tions to so­cial me­dia. It’s a real bat­tle for ev­ery fam­ily. Here are my top six strate­gies which I find crit­i­cal for par­ents of teens un­der the age of 15 to fo­cus on. If you do noth­ing else when it comes to so­cial me­dia, th­ese are a must.

Never A Gift

If you buy your daugh­ter a mo­bile phone (or phone plan) as a gift it is re­ally dif­fi­cult to take that gift back. Af­ter all she will ar­gue that a gift is owned by the one who re­ceived it. That is why I sug­gest that par­ents own all tech­nol­ogy in their home and give their chil­dren the priv­i­lege of us­ing it if they use it re­spon­si­bly. If the par­ent owns tech­nol­ogy they are also free to in­stall any safety soft­ware they feel nec­es­sary.

Crys­tal Clear Agree­ments

I think it is ridicu­lous to have a writ­ten agree­ment for ev­ery­thing that hap­pens in a home. I am not per­son­ally great at keep­ing check­lists or my kids’ chores on white­boards or charts. I pre­fer a bit of ran­dom chaos. But when it comes to so­cial me­dia a writ­ten con­tract re­ally is es­sen­tial. Noth­ing should be left un­said.

Buy A Tool­box

Par­ents have said to me that no mat­ter where they hide their daugh­ter’s phone they al­ways find it. So, there are times when I have sug­gested it is in ev­ery­one’s best in­ter­est to buy a tool­box from a hard­ware store, that has a lock and key. Dur­ing fam­ily times, meal times and home­work times the phone goes into the tool­box.

Sched­ule Time to Check Ac­counts

In the busy­ness of life par­ents of­ten for­get to keep con­nected to what their girls are do­ing on­line. They as­sume all is OK, and some­times it just isn’t. It is a good idea to sched­ule reg­u­lar times to check teens ac­counts (and google their name). In­stalling the right safety soft­ware on tech­nol­ogy will elim­i­nate the need for you to have their pass­word. Get­ting teens’ pass­words is a night­mare.

Set a Shut Down Time

The amount of girls who sleep with their phones in their bed­room, and even un­der their pil­low, as­tounds me. Please sched­ule a shut down time and en­sure phones are charged in a place where they aren’t ac­ces­si­ble. Our daugh­ters need un­in­ter­rupted sleep. I would sug­gest an 8.30pm shut down time to al­low them time to un­wind be­fore bed.

Talk About the Ele­phant in the Room Our daugh­ters do face real chal­lenges on­line. We know they are there. They know there are there. We just don’t talk about them very much. The more we talk about the ele­phant in the room the more likely we are to save our daugh­ters from dan­ger. Par­ents I prom­ise you that your girls are look­ing for an adult to delve straight into their world ‘boots and all’.

The re­al­ity is that noth­ing will test your re­la­tion­ship with your daugh­ter like so­cial me­dia. So­cial me­dia gives our teenagers an op­por­tu­nity to rebel. It ticks all the boxes. It is an area where teenagers have power over their par­ents and it is easy for your daugh­ter to ex­er­cise that power. That is why no strat­egy can re­place our re­la­tion­ship with our daugh­ters. When it comes to so­cial me­dia, re­la­tion­ship is ev­ery­thing!

Michelle Mitchell is the Founder of Youth Ex­cel and the au­thor of "Par­ent­ing Teens in the Age of a New Nor­mal". For more par­ent­ing tips visit www.michellemitchell.org


OWN IT: Never give your teenager a phone as a gift, as there’s no go­ing back.

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