I never thought that I would be in the phase of life where the saying, “when I was your age” came into play multiple times a day. But in reality, I am getting older and so are my kids. The struggles and things I faced at their age are still present for them, but they have a whole new dynamic to incorporate into their lives that I didn’t. That dynamic is “The Digital Age”.
When I was in 7th grade the internet was starting to become more popular and accessible. I remember having access to it on our classroom computers. It was an amazing concept to my 7th grade brain that the world was at my fingertips. I remember being with my best friend and asking our favorite teacher if we could stay after school to work on “homework”. Being the amazing awesome kids that want to get ahead in life, she said yes. It was also an easy yes from our parents. I mean that is music to a parents and teachers ears. A kid wants to stay after school to work on homework. That is teacher’s pet/honor roll material right there!
Little did our teachers and our parents know, but those times after school began an online addiction for us. We were introduced to the amazing world of chat rooms. We had no education about the internet and we were never told of the dangers.
Back in those days we didn’t have the world at our fingertips yet. Home computers and home internet access wasn’t a mainstream commodity yet. The only place we could get access to it was at school or at the public library. This also became an example of how important it is for parents to stay on top of things. Our parents thought we were being “good kids”. We were staying after school to study and going to the library to study. In their eyes they were proud they were raising Ivy League kids. But during those hours of being unsupervised, we were entering into the world of chat rooms and talking with boys (probably some grown men too) about our likes, life, hobbies and what color underwear we were wearing. I still remember having my first online “boyfriend”. He was from Canada and I couldn’t wait to talk to him every day. It was all I thought about!
Thankfully after 7th and 8th grade my addiction with the internet slowed down immensely. We still didn’t have home internet and High School kept us too stressed and busy with homework that we actually had to use any free time we had to actually work on homework.
Today’s kids have so much more danger and it’s right in their pockets 24/7. I remember praying before I became a mom that I wouldn’t be naïve. That I wouldn’t be one of the parents that thought my kids were perfect angels. It is a little easy for me because I was technically one of those angels. I was a good kid growing up and I still did some bad things that my parents never knew about. That has helped me navigate life as a parent now.
My children are 11 and 13 right now. The first time they asked for a cell phone was when my oldest was around 9. He of course used the “all my friends have one” statement and my response was “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too”. Oh my..I am turning into my parents!
We decided to introduce them to the digital age slowly. They got cheap $40 tablets from Santa one year and I downloaded some fun games and apps for them to use and play with. The tablets never connected to our internet. This satisfied them for many years. Unfortunately once middle school came around and the amount of kids that carried cell phones to school increased, the tablets no longer satisfied.
I was left with a decision. Do we hold our ground and not do cell phones or was it time to introduce them safely. I decided to introduce the cell phone because my son was joining the wrestling team and he needed a way to easily communicate with me when he needed to be picked up and he would also be having a lot of meets out of town.
I bought the cell phone without them knowing and played around with it for a few weeks. I researched all different kinds of safe guard apps and finally landed on one that I liked. I installed it and tested it for a few weeks to familiarize myself with all the features and capabilities. When the time came, I introduced the cell phone as “my cell phone” that I am letting them use. I never gave him the ownership over it.
It began with him only taking it to school on wrestling days and then he was able to use it at home as well. I have read so many mixed reviews of people bashing on parents that put safety apps on their kids’ phones. I have heard things about them being controlling helicopter parents that are invading their children’s privacy, etc.
Our kids know there is a safety app on the phone and we explained to them why there is one. We explained the dangers of the internet. We told them it’s like dropping them off by themselves in the center of a very large, dark and scary city and then driving away. No parent in their right mind would do that to their children, but yet it is happening everyday in our homes when our babies have access to the whole world on their cell phones. It is not safe.
Little by little we are giving our kids more access as we see fit based on their knowledge, responsibility and maturity. My son doesn’t have any social media accounts yet. He uses YouTube kids to watch kid approved videos, Spotify (which is offline and he can only listen to the songs he asks us to add for him), and he texts his friends from school.
If you don’t have a safe guard on your child’s phone, I would highly recommend it. We are the parents, and it’s our responsibility to keep our kids safe. You may not be popular with them and they may throw a fit if they are already used to not having a safe guard, but guess what, you’re the parent!
The app that we have been using for over a year now is called MMGuardian. It has a child app that gets installed on the child’s phone and/or tablet and a parent app that is installed on the parent’s phone.
This app has many features. It allows you to set time limits, block apps, monitor incoming and outgoing messages, block incoming picture messaging, location tracking, shows you how much time your child is spending on certain apps, etc.
You can download the app here for android or apple:
I am a 30 something year old single mom of two. I have a 16 year old son and an 14 year old daughter. They are keeping me busy and on my toes in this new phase I call "Teenagedom".
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