For years parents grounded their teens as a consequence to their breaking family rules. Poor grades, "You’re grounded this weekend. Missed curfew, “Grounded, you ‘ll be missing that movie on Saturday"! Today the default grounding discipline is “Surrender your cell phone”. I see children losing their cell phones and other electronic privileges for almost every infraction of the rules imaginable. I wonder if you have noticed that it isn’t really working? Parents need to get more creative in how we discipline our children. For several reasons.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am totally on board with limiting time spent on electronic devices as this too is detrimental to our children. In fact I advocate this being a family policy. Limiting hours of access rather than giving free access to all phones, Xboxes, Internet etc. and then having to take it away when things start to go awry.
Taking away privileges to change teen behavior is seldom effective or productive. One of the main reasons is that this constant taking privileges away for misbehavior is actually teaching our kids this lesson: Just do the time…the privileges will return. It is not teaching them to stop the bad habit. So let’s use our imaginations and find better options.
There is another factor to consider. Social media sites have become the 21st Century equivalent to hanging at the mall or movie theaters. (Marwick, Fordham University, Boyd, Microsoft Research New England). Growing up in the 1950’s I could play outside on my own from morning to sunset. We had malt shops and drive-ins, community and church rec centers. We could congregate as a teenager without constant adult supervision. My children grew up in the ‘70s & ‘80s. It was not quite as free and varied as my experiences, but they too would ride bikes to school and home, to roller or ice rinks and meet at malls or play at parks.
Today it is a different world and much of this is no longer available nor safe for teens. Social media networks provide a way for kids to interact with each other that’s not organized and supervised by authorities, as school, sports, and other extracurricular activities are. ,” Dr. Boyd writes in It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Teenagers today spend an enormous amount of time in structured activity. He argues that networking through social media enables teens to connect with their peers and develop their identity without direct adult oversight.
Finding their identity is developmentally what the teen years are all about. Dr. Beth Peters, a clinical psychologist says,
"When you remove a teen’s lifeline to their friends, there will be a major emotional backlash, a breakdown of the parent-child relationship. When phones are taken away as punishment, kids tend to withdraw from the parent. “They don’t try to solve their problem. They don’t talk to the parent. You’re really setting yourself up for a dishonest teen because they need that contact and will resort to sneaky behavior to get it.”
So what’s a parent to do? While electronic distractions can be the block from completing assignments and getting good grades. More time studying, reading doing practice exercises might be more beneficial. Rather than a total ban on phones reduce some of screen time and have the new found time on productive study routines. They can earn more time back by raising their grades, completing assignments etc.
There is a saying “What we resist persists”. Rather than being an enemy of technology use it as an ally. Smartphones come with many capabilities in addition to social networking and entertainment. There are calendars, alert systems, and apps for just about everything. How can your teen find ways to use this phone to help monitor their assignments or enhance their academic progress.
Work together. Have your teen design their own consequences.You have the right of refusal, but often they are creative and sometimes even harder on themselves then you are.
Be creative.Think outside the box and have some fun. One parent had an issue with her teen not meeting her on time for pick-ups after school.She shared that she would give him one follow up text and 5 minute wait time. If he was not at the car she would step out onto the sidewalk and start dancing front of schoolmates. So embarrassing!
Every major carrier allows for probably for a small fee: Rather than taking phone away you can set limits for:
•-Number of text and instant messages •-Dollar amount of downloadable purchases (ringtones, games and more) •-Amount of Web browsing/data usage allowed per billing cycle • -Times of day the phone can be used for messaging, browsing, and outbound calling. •-Who the phone can call or text (incoming and outgoing) by blocking or allowing certain numbers •-The access of content inappropriate for children.
Finally remember dating back as far as Socrates, we have known that humans respond better to positive feedback and incentives than they do to punishments. So don’t be so quick to ban the phones.