So your teen has a cell phone–everyone does, right? (And, yeah, let’s face it, they pretty much do.) And the text messages fly all day, every day. Maybe you already have a rule in place that you check the messages at the end of the day or before your teen is allowed to delete them. GOOD FOR YOU! Trust me, you’re way ahead of the game and more attentive and protective than the majority of parents.
But how do you know she/he isn’t deleting choice messages or sections of conversations before you see them? Did you even realize that could be done?
Yes, individual messages can be deleted. And, yes, your teen probably knows how to do it. But there comes a point with every point related to your teenager and Hot Button issues where you have to let go and trust. There’s a moment when the final decision to do something or not to do something falls strictly in your kiddo’s lap and you have rely on the preparation you’ve done.
When it comes to checking text messages or checking up on Facebook, or monitoring email,you can’t be 100% sure that you see everything. But you can be sure that your attentiveness is a deterrent and sends a message that you care. Your teen watches your consistency and learns about which issues are important to you by how regularly you follow-up.
So you might miss some things–you might even miss very important things–when you check up on the electronic habits of your teens. But they won’t overlook your concern and if your involvement causes them to think twice the next time they click a link or send a message, then you’ve done your job.
Now it’s time to prepare your teen for the decision-making moments when no one is looking.
The Hot Buttons column gives you a fictional scenario you can use to put your teen in the heat of moment and help him/her figure out what to do when that real life situation happens. You should take this as an opportunity to see where your teenager may need some help or might face a struggle one day.
Now, tell your teen this story as though it’s really happening to him/her:
A popular girl from school sends you some text messages you really don’t want your mom to see, but the conversation is so funny and you’re so glad she’s talking to you that you text back. Your reply causes a flurry of new texts and even a couple of pictures to come through. Your mom is going to be so mad that you allowed her bad language and racy pics. But what can you do? If you tell her to stop sending them, she’ll never text you again and your shot at popularity is over, but if you allow them, even encourage them, you’ll be grounded forever and might even lose your phone. What do you do?
Present the following choices to your teenager:
- You continue the conversation and then delete it when it’s over. She’ll never know.
- You continue the conversation, but try to steer it away from things you could get in trouble for. After all, it isn’t your fault she talks like that.
- You don’t want to get in trouble so you ask her to stop and blame it on your super-strict parents. You send a bunch of other texts, burying the bad ones in hopes your mom doesn’t scroll all the way down when she checks them at the end of the day.
- Your mom’s trust is way too important to you–you tell her to stop sending the messages and then show your mom before she sees them.
Now let your teen make a choice between the responses without feeling judged or directed. You want the response to be as honest as possible. Remember, you’re most likely battling peer pressure and an entitlement attitude.
- Cell phone usage is a privilege.
- Deleted messages can be tracked.
- Parental controls are an option.
- Discuss your rules for cell phone and email use.
- Brainstorm various responses for this kind of pressure.
- Popularity that asks you to disobey your parents isn’t the kind of popularity you want.
- Texting is like putting it in writing and a reputation can be so easily damaged.
- The importance of trust.
- Pray together for wisdom and strength against peer pressure.