I think parents of today’s teens are in a unique situation.

I’m not saying I’ve discovered something ‘new under the sun’. Our kids struggle with the same sins of  pride, fear, lust, and jealousy that the kids 200 years ago did. But there are new ways of accessing and spreading sin. 
It’s called technology. 
Parents of teens in 2013 don’t have the luxury of simply mimicking what the godly parents in 2003 did. Why? Because in 2003, facebook and hadn’t launched yet, and instagram wasn’t possible because there was no such thing as an app for your phone–if you even had a phone.
I think that when the generation ahead is willing to give parenting input, we should pull up a chair and lean in. But technology is creating problems that our mentors have never considered. They might tell us, “We never let our kids take the phone to their bedrooms.” But what about texting? They might tell us how they helped their kids choose friends. But what about facebook friends? They might have wisdom on how to handle a bully. But what about a cyber bully?
For this reason, I think it’s essential to find some godly parents of teens who are just a couple of steps ahead. For me, this is my friend, Jill*. 
Jill and her husband are outstanding parents. Their kids are about five years beyond ours–our oldest just entered high school; their oldest is in college. Jill is someone I admire and respect, and I heavily rely on her parenting advice. Here are some of the things she’s given me input on recently:
  • Phones: Jill says that if she had it to do over again, she wouldn’t give her kids a phone before age 16 (when they start driving). Yes, phones are convenient. But she says there’s hardly ever a time that her kids can’t find a way to get a message to her. And for those kids who naturally withdraw from social situations, or pull away from their parents, a phone exacerbates the problem. The child’s need, in the teen years, to get input from parents is far greater than the need to connect with friends. But a phone creates the reverse affect. 
  • Facebook: Jill’s kids cannot get a facebook until they are 13–the age facebook says it’s ok. Otherwise, what is she teaching them about integrity? Her kids have to be her facebook friend. And if she says, “Your friend just swore on your wall,” they have to go take it down.
  • iTunes: None of Jill’s kids know the password to their family iTunes account. This way, she’s the gateway to downloads–even free ones. If one of the kids get an iTunes gift card, rather than setting up a separate account, they keep track of that child’s purchases on a sticky note.
  • Movies: Their family does not see rated R movies. For PG13 movies, they evaluate the premise. Is the story about people having an affair? Does it make you cheer for the guy who stealing? Then, it’s not worth seeing.
  • Video Games: Jill’s kids only play games on their xbox and wii. This way, they don’t associate the computer with games, which distracts from homework. They are only allowed to play games on the weekend. And they set all of their games to the family setting. 
  • Computer: Jill understands that the computer is essential for her kids to complete homework. But the family computer is kept in a central place in their home (kids don’t have computers in their bedrooms). The password to log on is only known by the parents. This way, the kids can only be on the computer when the parents are home–and could walk by at any moment.
  • Skin: Teenage boys have to struggle against their culture to be pure. Jill wants to do whatever she can to protect the men of her household from temptation. For this reason, they don’t watch shows like Dancing with the Stars or The Bachelor. And they don’t go to many waterparks or pools. She’s willing to sacrifice whatever necessary to support purity in her home. 
Your turn. What great advice have you gotten, regarding technology or raising teens in 2013? Or do you have some advice to share? We’re all ears!
*Jill is too modest to let me use her real name. (Or maybe she doesn’t want people swarming her door for advice?!)

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