By Maris Ehlers, Mom. Marketer. Social Media Expert. 

For those of you who are struggling with your kids and technology, I invite you to watch this video of my son (especially what he says towards the end). You can work through this with them. It’s not easy, but it is so worth it.

We spend a lot of time talking about the issues and frustrations we have with our kids and life online, and I learn so much about it every day. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t, to be honest.

Today I thought it might be helpful to hear from a teen who has taken the journey from one side to the other (from arguing with us about tech use, trying to find workarounds to security measures in place, begging to play, to finally and painfully understanding why parents need to help guide their kids with technology (including rules and monitoring).

My kid is your kid, in that he’s not much different than most kids his age. He loved to play video games, loves to be on his phone, watching You Tube, playing games, on Instagram and Snapchat. He would sometimes get difficult and crabby when he couldn’t play or be online, be euphoric when he could (especially when getting to play Xbox), and agitated and cranky with us after playing for significant lengths of time in a day.

We’d make him get off the Xbox, and the next thing you know he’d be upstairs with his phone. We’d tell him to get off his phone and go do something else, and as soon as he could sneak by, he’d be plugged in to a different device or back downstairs watching TV. It was a point of stress in our home most days. I didn’t mind being the bad guy and taking his devices, and he’d have weeks or months at a time where he would be grounded from his devices. But as soon as a crack was available to be online or game or on a phone, he was there and we’d start all over again. It was like an addiction, especially in that when an addict stops using, if they start up again they don’t start over. Their addiction starts where they left off (higher usage).

RULES WITHOUT REASON RARELY WORK LONG TERM

We weren’t working together on this topic, and it was a constant battle of “These are the rules whether you like it or not!” I am a social media consultant. I speak about teen suicide prevention. I see the worst technology has to offer. I see the absolute best it has to offer, too. I know the research behind how social media and online life is affecting our kids’ mental health. We would talk and talk and talk, trying to get through, but we still had the same battles in our own home about it all. It was EXHAUSTING.

We tried setting hard limits with time away if he didn’t obey, but the more he played the sneakier he’d get about playing. When we’d say “no” to playing during the week he’d binge on the weekends. I only caught him once playing in the middle of the night, but I’m sure there were more occasions. And yet, many of his friends (both locally and elsewhere) were doing the same thing, so how could we change his behavior?

To be honest, I don’t know that he would have listened without experiencing some trauma. It’s really hard to say.

I don’t honestly know how you get them to listen before something goes south, but I know you should not give up trying.

A LONG ROAD. ONE I’M SURPRISINGLY GLAD WE’VE TRAVELED

There are few feelings in the world like the one in your gut when you are sitting down at your dining room table with your fifteen year old boy who has never even gone on a date, or been to a party, and watching him try to explain to a police detective that he was commenting on a video he and his friends were watching via Snapchat video inside a group chat, that he thought the chat was between friends and that he would never threaten anyone. Even harder? Listening to the detective telling him that the county attorney wanted to make an example of him, and thought he should be charged with a felony. Knowing that a moment of “What were you thinking???” had put everything that he had worked for in other areas of his life at risk was truly mind boggling to me. Especially after all of the “talks” (aka lectures) we had had.

Since “the group chat incident” as we call it, we’ve had a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, a lot of vulnerability, a lot of being made fun of, and a lot of getting up in the morning with the intention to prove to others that he isn’t who the rumors say he is. Some kids are kind and some are horrible. It’s been a long damn ass road. But…. I’m glad we’ve made it. We are all stronger and closer for it.

I am unbelievably proud of him, and we’ve talked often about how part of the restitution in our family is to be a better role model for others. This video is an attempt at that.I am humbled that he was so willing on this random morning before school to put his story out there in hopes that a parent might listen, and that their child might, too.

So here’s our dirty laundry, just hangin’ out in the wind, LOL. I hope you find it helpful. If you can watch it with your kid and start yet another discussion about how you are doing the things you in hopes of avoiding a “dumpster fire” in their life, please do so!

Please also feel free to ask questions. He and I will both try to answer as best as we can.
You can do it… together!

Helping Your Kids Avoid The Digital Dumpster Fire
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