So the boy lost his phone for a while, back several months ago. This isn’t a post meant to shame my boy at all. In fact, I had him read this first paragraph and give his okay before publishing it. But he did something stupid…yes, stupid. I can say that without ruining his self esteem. And so he got his phone taken away. We realized that we had been too lax on some things. We had given him a bit too much freedom at too young of an age, without the safeguards we should have had in place. Parenting is a constant learning experience. And we’ve never said that we do it perfectly.
Now I do want to take minute to say that if I had had access to all things internet at the age of 12-18, I would have been FAR stupider than he could even try to be on his worst day. Thankfully, I didn’t have the internet in the palm of my hand until I was probably about 30. Mostly by then I was responsible enough to handle it. Mostly.
But he now has a phone again. He has a nicer phone than I do because I believe he will take better care of it than I would. I drop my phone like it’s some kind of hot potato like 100 times a day. We are working on giving him *some* limited freedom back. But the internet is a very scary place. So since giving him a phone back, we have put some things in place. And because I think it takes a village to navigate these waters, I want to share how we *think* we are *better* protecting him. And I’d welcome any suggestions from those who are walking through this teenage internet landmine with me. *Asterisk because I recognize that we don’t have it all figured out and we never will.
1. We know ALL passwords. If he changes a password or passcode, he must tell us. If we find out that he changed a password without telling us, the phone is ours.
2. We check ALL conversations that we can as often as we can. Through text, fb, instagram, etc. Any time I choose, I take the phone and look through any and all things. We find anything either of his grandmothers wouldn’t approve of, the phone is ours. And as long as any of the kids are living in this house, we will have regular and random phone checks. No arguments.
3. He had to send his friends who he texts with this text before texting anything else, “My parents will be reading my texts. Don’t write anything that you don’t want my parents to read.”
4. He cannot delete or add an app (not on the cloud) without us knowing about it. He can still add apps from the cloud. Not ideal, but at least if he adds something stupid, he can’t get rid of it. AND WE WILL SEE IT! And then…you guessed it, the phone is ours.
5. No Youtube. Youtube is pure evil and I don’t condone any of my kids using it. Think I’m overreacting? Search for something on Youtube that you would in no way shape or form want your kids to see. That should change your mind.
6. No Safari or other internet browser. There’s just no need for a 13 year old boy or girl to have all of the internet in the palm of his/her hand. Nope. No need. We have a protected home computer he can use for his internet browsing.
7. Nobody needs 100% privacy. Everybody needs to answer to somebody. I answer to Phillip and he answers to me. We can check each others’ phones and computers any time we want to. If I don’t get 100% privacy, why would I think my child should? Someday my child will answer to his spouse, but until then he will answer to me and his dad.
8. We will offer him grace. If he looks at/writes something/buys something, etc., that he then realizes was wrong, he can come to us and honestly tell us. I promised him that if he comes to me, on his own free will, and confesses something he has done wrong, that we WILL give him grace. But if we find it on our own, grace goes out the window. We all screw up. We all need grace.
Some of you might think this is too strict. You might be right. But when it comes to the integrity of our child’s name, we can’t be too careful. He could potentially do something so royally stupid at the age of 13 that it could wreck his name for the rest of his life. It’s our responsibility to protect his name, his integrity, and his future relationships as much as we possibly can. And some might think that he shouldn’t have a phone at all. And you might also be right. But like anything, we have to teach life skills to our kids and unfortunately, we live in an age where the internet is readily available and part of our daily lives. They must be taught how to use it, with integrity.
More than anything, we are trying to hammer home with him (and all of our kids) the value of his name, his integrity, and honesty. We have big plans for the man that he will become. And so we will do our best to protect the man he will be from the teenager that he is now. He’s our first teenager so we are sort of learning as we go with him.
I want to be very honest here and say that if you think your kid will never write/search for/download something you wouldn’t approve of, you are foolish and naive. It will bite you. It will bite your kid. We were foolish. And we will regularly reevaluate this whole thing to *try* to avoid being foolish again. We must be willing to fight for our kids, even if that means fighting against our kids for what we know is best.