This is where it starts…. at what age to kids need either own phone? Seemed like a relatively simple parenting decision, but no… If she has her own phone then it will open up a world of Instagram, Snapchat, Yik Yak, Kik and whatever the newest social media sharing world comes out with. Our family is pretty tech-heavy. We’re not Luddites (although there is an awesome restaurant in town called Ned Ludd) and there are no safety issues requiring a phone. A year ago when my daughter was almost 12 we got her a computer. Ostensibly it was for doing homework, and mostly it has been that. The privilege of having a computer came with a TECHNOLOGY USAGE CONTRACT that lays out the rules of the land and also provides a framework for discussion (both formal and impromptu).
Fastforward a year….. the computer has been working well. A couple minor issues with email threads that got out of control, but all within normal expected parenting issues. Now the child is turning 13 and she tells me “MOM, EVERYONE else has a phone. Why won’t you get me one?” Now, first I know it’s not true that EVERYONE has one and second, she assumes incorrectly that it’s a constitutional right to get a phone. Those matters aside, what is the best choice? I don’t think there is one RIGHT answer and one WRONG answer. It depends on so many different variables.
In doing some research, went to a talk by Eric Anctil, one of his points was that we are charting new territory — these are new issues that were not present in previous generations of parents, so there are no role models and best practice data. His talk brought out even more things to be afraid of (argh!) and no real answers. Another realization is that the constant use of technology IS their real world, so avoiding it or forcing them to stop can cause more harm than good.
What are the right choices? I don’t know. But I do know that being present and trying to engage my teenager in these uncharted waters is the best thing I can do. Talking with my teen about my very real fear of the unknown and working together will get us both through this intact! (hopefully!)