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Technology, teens and when to say no

While some things never change, your teen may have a point. Most of my conversations that end in "no" with my son involve technology in some way, something that was significantly more limited when I was my son's age.
by Michelle Sutherlin Modified: April 2, 2014 at 12:21 pm •  Published: April 2, 2014
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photo - In this Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel poses for photos, in Los Angeles. Spiegel dropped out of Stanford University in 2012, three classes shy of graduation, to move back to his father's house and work on Snapchat. SpiegelÂ’s fast-growing mobile app lets users send photos, videos and messages that disappear a few seconds after they are received (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
In this Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel poses for photos, in Los Angeles. Spiegel dropped out of Stanford University in 2012, three classes shy of graduation, to move back to his father's house and work on Snapchat. SpiegelÂ’s fast-growing mobile app lets users send photos, videos and messages that disappear a few seconds after they are received (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Do you ever feel like you are saying "no" all the time to your teen/preteen? I do. It's discouraging for me and also my son.

It's tricky. I know from personal experience that even when parents tell a child no, they will do it anyway, especially when they are a teenager. So, I try to say yes as much as I can. And when I don't have to say no, I try to provide my children with enough information so they can make the right choice for themselves.

But, we all know that isn't quite so easy. Teens believe their parents are, for a lack of a better word, stupid. This is nearly universal. It's not that the teen doesn't occasionally think their parent is sort of smart about certain things, they just think they know way more about living life than their parent does.

You have heard it before: "You just don't understand me. Things are different today than they were when you were my age."

While some things never change, your teen may have a point. Most of my conversations that end in "no" with my son involve technology in some way, something that was significantly more limited when I was his age.

I mean, my Commodore 64 and Atari were awesome. Completely awesome. But, I never used the internet until my sophomore year of college. That was also when I got my first cell phone.

Just think for a minute how much has changed in the last 20 years: cell phones, Internet, texting, instant news, digital everything and social media.

I feel fairly well equipped to deal with these changes since I am involved in social media myself. I love Facebook (mostly to keep up with the people I care about but don't see every day). I am on Instagram and Twitter, and texting has become a way of life, especially when it comes to a couple of group texts I am on.

I find myself online at night instead of watching TV. I get my news, my entertainment and most of my social needs met through my smart phone and my computer.

So when deciding how to handle technology with my own children, my husband and I had to take a balanced look at the right way to approach it. There was a time when I vowed that the first phone my child would have would be when he was 16 and driving and truly needed a phone.

That didn't last, especially when I started working in a middle school. A large majority of students beginning in the sixth grade either have a smart phone or another device that allows them to text, post on social media sites and have access to the Internet. So, as parents, we had to decide what was right for our son.

What we decided may not be right for every family. In fact, I know families who do technology different, and it isn't for anyone to judge what a family decides to do.

Generally speaking, we allowed our oldest son to use a cell phone beginning at the very end of fifth grade. We wanted him to have the summer to practice using a phone correctly and under lots of supervision before turning him over to more unsupervised use in middle school. We wrote a contract with many conditions, including that his father and I have complete access to his phone, passwords and apps.

The phone has been taken away and given back multiple times already in the 10 months he has had it. But we expected this. We can't hand him a cell phone and expect him to know how to use it responsibly without any instruction or correction.

So every day is a learning experience. I read all of his texts (and he knows that I do; I don't try to hide it), and I look at his history on apps such as YouTube. I am also on his Instagram account daily.


by Michelle Sutherlin
NewsOK Contributor
Michelle Sutherlin is a middle school counselor in Norman, OK, who works with students ages 11-15 daily. She is also a mom to two boys, Ryan (12) and Will (9). She and her husband have been married for 16 years. She loves middle school students so...
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