Does your teen’s smart phone have more influence than you?

An increasingly common frustration we hear from parents is the competition that exists between them and their teen’s smart phone. Parent complaints cover a wide variety of concerns including trouble listening/focusing, obsessive game playing, viewing porn, sexting, cyber-bullying and staying up all night watching videos to name just a few. We all are aware of just how consumed we can become in our phones and of course, teens are no exception. While it is a fact that most teens are now packing smart phones, our belief is that there should not be a competition for a teen’s attention.  Parents should always trump a smart phone. If you are losing this competition and your teen’s smart phone has more influence than you do, then we have eight suggestions for you to take control of the situation:

1. You as the Parent owns the phone—The teen needs to know you bought it, you pay the bill and you are simply “loaning” it to them.  You set the password and you have the right to take the phone whenever you want.

2.  The primary purpose of the teen having the phone is for YOU to contact THEM.  The teen needs to understand that whenever the Caller ID says MOM or DAD that the call NEVER goes to voicemail. 

3.  You as the parent set the curfew for possession of the phone, and yes, there needs to be a curfew.  The teen should not have possession of the phone beyond the time you set in the evening.   You as the parent charge the phone in your safe keeping overnight and then assign to the teen’s possession again in the morning.

4. It is the teen’s responsibility to care for the phone.  Lost or damaged phones are on him/her, not you as the parent. 

5.  There is a zero tolerance policy for dishonesty, deceit or manipulation of others.  Any involvement in cyber-bullying or conversations that are hurtful to others are not tolerated.  Parents are to be accepted as followers on all social networks. Message to the teen: Do not text, email, or say anything using the smartphone you would not say in person or with me as the parent in the room.

6.  No porn and no sexting.  Message to the teen: Search the web for information you would openly share with me.  If you have a question about anything, ask me as the parent.  Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts.  Do not send or receive pictures that in any way are revealing or sexual in nature.   The development of a cyber-sex addiction will not occur on my watch.

7.  Face to Face conversation always takes precedence. Message to teen: Never allow your smart phone to interfere with a face to face conversation with someone else.  Do not text or browse while speaking with another human being or while you are supposed to be listening or paying attention to adults.  You are not a rude person; do not allow the smart phone to change that.

8.  The smart phone is an earned privilege.  Message to teen: You will mess up.  I will take away your phone.  We will sit down and talk about it.  We will start over again.  You may lose internet access on the phone or you may lose the privilege entirely.  You must show me you can be trusted to possess a smart phone.  Post the rules in plain sight and draft an agreement. Once you’ve set the ground rules, make sure the rules for your teen’s smart phone usage are crystal clear.


"Failure to Launch" Syndrome and the Enabling Parent

Developmental stagnation in the transition phase between high school and the adult world is a problem that increasingly impacts families across the country. Recent studies suggest that over 70% of young men 18-30 still live at home with their parents and many of these young adults are not employed, attending college or otherwise working to become independent from their parents.  Many have termed this increasingly common phenomena as “Failure to Launch”. 

While it is true that finding a job and financing an education is more difficult than in past generations, too many young adult men are stagnated in their development and continue to approach life acting as if they are still teens attending high school.  Without any sense of urgency to move forward to the next stage in life, they become increasingly focused on being entertained, often with hours of video games, social media and pornography at the expense of developing the self-discipline needed to manage the demands of life in the adult world. 

Rather than allowing these young adults to continue on their “developmental vacation”, parents need to insist that their adult children continue on the path toward responsible adulthood.  Our society does not need more young men who lack self-discipline and live only to be entertained.   There are already too many young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about forming families and making a real contribution in this world.

Sometimes, the problem is as much the parents as it is the young adult.  Parents need to learn to take a hard stand and require their young adult children to step up and be responsible.  Too many parents enable their adult child’s bad behavior, by allowing them to remain unemployed, to live at home without responsibility, to not pursue additional education and to focus their time and energy on hedonistic pursuits, rather than developing self-discipline.

Parents who find themselves with an adult child on developmental vacation often struggle to use “tough love” and despite knowing they are enabling bad behavior, continue to reward their adult child’s irresponsibility by simply doing nothing.   For parents who need a boost of support, Family Bootcamp can help.  Dr. Dan Sanderson and his team of clinical psychotherapists have worked with hundreds of families who have struggled with the failure to launch dilemma.  During the five day Family Bootcamp  that runs Thursday through Monday, parents spend their time with Dr. Sanderson in the developmental vacation parent seminar.  The young adults spend the five days learning to live in the remote Utah desert unplugged from all technology and away from the amenities of modern society.  The Family Bootcamp provides both parents and the young adult with a “wake-up call” and a strong reminder of the need for young adults to develop into responsible individuals capable of making a contribution to society.