Parenting Past the Physical
November 13, 2014
I was in class with a group of middle schoolers recently, where the topic for discussion was…
(Always an exciting discussion, amiright??)
So there they sat, beads of perspiration on their brow, palms sweating profusely. The awkwardness was palpable.
The teacher was discussing abstinence; specifically, how to safeguard yourself from getting into questionable situations. He talked about setting a curfew with your boyfriend/girlfriend, not going into a bedroom alone, having accountability, etc.
All good suggestions.
Suggestions that were given to me at that age, actually. Suggestions that my own parents enforced in their home.
Times haven’t changed.
Except, as I began to realize, they kind of have.
A few months ago I sat in my car at Sonic with my boys and one of my very favorite 13 year old friends. I was picking her brain about social media and began to ask her where she got in the most trouble online.
Do you want to guess?
You’re probably thinking Snapchat. Negative.
Her answer: FaceTime.
“FaceTime? As in the preloaded Apple app?”
Yes, that FaceTime.
Which, if you think about it, makes perfect sense. Parents ban Snapchat, are wary of Kik. They know to check Instagram. But FaceTime? It’s just an app to make phone calls…right?
Right, except video. And teenage hormones.
I think there’s probably a lot more happening on FaceTime than we realize. Like, naked happenings.
Maybe not every kid, but enough of them.
Before we hyperventilate, let’s pause for a second.
As I mention every time I talk about social media, it’s not about apps. It’s about conversations and addressing the heart of the matter, not arguing over the platform it plays out on.
The propensity for teenagers to take off their clothes in the presence of the opposite sex isn’t a social media/app problem, it’s a teen problem. (And has been since the beginning of time.)
So, back to class. Here we are in a room full of middle schoolers, listening to very practical advice about how to practice physical abstinence. As I look around, I see that every teenager in the room has a smartphone in their hand, on the floor right in front of them, or in their pants pocket.
And it hits me: we might be missing a big part of the conversation.
We are doing our teens a major disservice by only talking about physical abstinence. By only making rules about spending time with a physical boyfriend/girlfriend. By only enforcing the “bedroom door open” policy when dealing with a physical member of the opposite sex.
Because as important as those rules are, if they only apply to the physical realm, it’s only half the battle.
If we’re talking to our teens about practicing physical abstinence, yet allow them unrestricted Wifi access on their iPhones all night long, we’re missing something.
We set boundaries for physical people, yet let technology have free reign. Think about it.
“My son does homework on his phone, so we let him keep it with him at night.” I’m sure he does. But I’m guessing you wouldn’t let his cute, female chemistry lab partner spend the night in his bedroom to finish up a group project, right?
“She uses her phone as her alarm.” Good news: Amazon has an alarm clock right now for $8.59. Buy it.
Teens will make poor decisions, that’s a given.
But, for goodness sake, let’s not tempt them.
The world your teens are growing up in is offline AND online. Don’t forget the latter. Set boundaries and have conversations that include both.
That’s all. As you were.
pssst. for more social media reads, check out:
Parents: A Word about Instagram
A Coffee Date Chat: Social Media Mindset Differences