Teens and Social Media

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teens and media

Teens and social media is a hot topic these days. Everyone seems to have a different opinion (which is fine- I don’t believe there is one answer for every family) and many parents of younger children in particular are searching for answers that fit with their values. Chuck and I are not afraid to lay down rules and our teens are not afraid to follow them. Here is a basic outline of our current media policies.

teens and social media

Internet use:

1. No internet time until school work is done. Period. Unless, of course, the internet is needed for school work.

2. The kids are limited to an hour a day…and they don’t “get” an hour every day because often times the day is too busy, I need the computer for my blog and photography business, etc.

3. Someone must be in the room for the computer to be used.

4. Chuck and I check the computer history every morning when we log on.

teens and social media

Facebook:

All of our teens currently have Facebook accounts (monitored by Chuck and myself). We are “friends” with them so we are able to monitor their activity and their friends’ activities. As I have blogged about in the past, Facebook has been a great way to get to know the kids’ friends. When Adalia was preparing for her trip to Honduras someone had started a Facebook group and the kids were able to get to know each other before meeting in Florida. Inspired by that Judah has started a Facebook group for his Zambia team.teens and social media

Gaming: 

Several of our kids own a DS or PSP. For the teens, they can only be used after 8 pm (when the younger children are in bed). This prevents the little kids from gathering around and spending time passively watching someone else play on a tiny screen.

The younger kids can only play on the weekend, an hour per day (for a total of 2 hours per week).

We have a few old strategy games on some old PC’s (Colonization, Civilization, Chess) which the kids play once in a while. The same rules apply (one hour per day on the weekends).

We don’t have a Wii, Xbox or anything else. As a general rule, we don’t allow games rated as mature or higher (such as Call of Duty).

Cell Phones:

Adalia has a cell phone needed for her doula clients and to be in touch while she is at school, babysitting, etc. She pays her own phone bill.

We also have a “floater” phone that goes with whichever teen is out and about. These days it is usually Judah, working to earn money for his trip to Zambia. Chuck and I pay the bill for this phone.

These phones are basic cell phones with the ability to (wait for it!) make phone calls and take crappy pictures. That’s it. I’m sure they could text, but we have no texting plan and it would show up on our phone bill, so I don’t think any of our children are likely to try it.

What we don’t allow:

Ipod touches, iphones or any device that allows the internet to be accessed.

Games that are rated Mature or higher.

When we want to watch a movie as a family I always check it out on  Common Sense Media. The site has tons of information on movies and video games. It gives the actual rating, gives info on violence, language, consumerism, sex and several other categories. It has a place for parents to rate the movies as well as a place for kids to rate the movies.

That is a basic overview of current media rules. I imagine they will change over time as our children grow and technology advances. I have blogged about Teens and Facebook and Kids and Media in the past.

Contrary to what some people may think, having these rules in place does not make my kids social misfits. Adalia has adjusted to community college with ease, excelling academically and making friends. Judah and Enoch have plenty of non-homeschooling friends in Boy Scouts. We have rules, they follow them and it leads to a more-or-less peaceful home.

What type of media limits do you have in your house?

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51 Responses

  1. Brian

    Thanks for sharing Renee! I have always known your kids to be respectful. It’s because of loving boundries set like this. Good work!

  2. Caleb Breakey

    Great run-down! I don’t even have kids yet but I’ve definitely thought about how I’d ease my own son or daughter into the inevitable social media blitz. Love the tips!

  3. Anna

    We have an old Nintendo 64. Our rules have evolved as the older girls grew up and moved out and the younger kids have gotten older. When it was just my two stepdaughters playing, they could only play on the weekends. My husband didn’t set a time limit, but he did insist on appropriate games for their age. When we had an 18 year old, she was allowed to play my husband’s more violent games (Turok and Alien) as long as the blood was turned off and no younger siblings were around. My husband spent a lot of time guiding our one gamer into what makes an appropriate game. Shooting people is not good, but shooting aliens and dinosaurs is okay. Racing to win a race is okay, but outrunning the law is not. When she moved out on her own, she spent a LOT of time on WOW and I blamed my husband for letting the girls grow up playing. He pointed out that the other daughter didn’t play at all and she grew up with the same rules, so it was just the personality of the one daughter.

    When the little kids started getting older and into the racing games like Diddy Kong and MarioKart, we had to remove the entire system from sight. I had one child who could only think of video games to the point where it was effecting his normal, every day life (it reminded me of his older sister). The N64 stayed in a box for two or three years and came back out as a birthday present. Now, my three older kids (10, 9, 7) earn time by hard work that is above and beyond their normal chores. They get to spend more time playing when it is dark and rainy during the winter. It’s mostly off during the summer-unless there is a birthday party going on and the kids have a multi-player Super Smash or MarioKart marathon going at night. I’ve wasted hours and hours of my life watching people (college friends, husband, kids) play video games…but it is a great time to catch up on my knitting projects!

    For other media, the computer is open as long as they are doing something productive. We let them use a drawing program to their heart’s content (no stacks of drawing paper or markers left out anymore) and they also get to use a chess program. But no internet unless they ask first! We don’t have any games on the computers. I guess when they are older, my kids will want a facebook account, but they tease me too much for using it myself so I probably won’t let them;)

    When we had the two teenaged girls and they wanted a cell phone, they had to buy it and pay the monthly bill themselves. One got a job and a phone, the other didn’t. I’ll give you one guess which daughter did what! When this next batch of kids is old enough for phones, I’ll probably do the same thing. We are a one cell phone family, and it only makes phone calls and takes crappy pictures too!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Anna, interesting that you said, “I had one child who could only think of video games”…there is so much truth in that. Science actually backs up the fact that constant/frequent gaming does indeed change the brain chemistry. It literally CHANGES THEIR BRAINS. This has proven to be more true for boys. Often boys can’t NOT think of gaming.

      Kind of like you and me with knitting 😉

      • Anna

        Exactly! I read a book back then…I think it was Playstation Nation…and I learned about how the endocrine system can tell no difference between the stress in real life and the stress from the video game. By the time Shane was five years old he was addicted to the adrenaline rushes he would get from winning. I did my own experiment where I let him play for as long as he wanted to… I didn’t tell him when to eat, when to sleep, or what to play. That kids played for three straight days before my other son broke down crying at lunch and begged him to stop. Shane had gotten all twitchy and his eyes were blood shot and he could no longer walk without tripping over his feet. That is when it all when in a box and stayed away. His brain went through some phenomenal changes after we unplugged. It doesn’t seem as bad now. He knows he has a problem, so he shies away from too much playing.

        And yes, I do go through obsessive streaks with knitting! Oh man, it’s like a narcotic to feel the wool running through my fingers….ahhhh…. It’s almost as good as a hot cuppa coffee!

  4. Amanda

    Just make sure you also have their facebook password and log in from time to time. A lot can happen in the private inbox that you can’t see just by looking at the main page. Also be careful of the instant chat.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yes, you are right! Thanks for adding the warning.

      • Emily

        Also, grab the password. Being “friends” means little. It is very, very easy to post a status or something and disallow certain people on your friends list from seeing it. Not saying your kids are going to be doing that, but it is a real problem. Some parents think just being able to see their children’s wall means they have total access.

        If mine were old enough for FB, I would log in each night and click the “see all” button on the notification tab to also see what *others* may be saying, tagging, talking about with my kids.

        Children, IMO, receive privacy when they 1) earn it and 2) are old enough to have passable discernment online – or 18- whichever comes first.

        With their entire future accountable to stupid stuff they may say or do online (that NEVER goes away) I’m not taking chances. I grew up with this stuff, I’m heavily involved with technology, and thank God I didn’t do anything other than post (painfully embarrassing to read back on now) teenage blog posts on xanga.

    • Marley

      Wow. Do you not understand what “private” means just wondering? If you don’t trust your children’s conversations, why allow them to even have a Facebook?

      • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

        Marley,
        I’m not sure if that was directed at me, or the commenter. My kids enjoy Facebook for the social networking, sharing photos, etc. Even if we banned PM’s (which we don’t ) they would still enjoy the other aspects of it.

          • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

            Okay…it is so hard to tell online. One disadvantage of chatting online. You can never tell the *tone* someone is speaking in. I’ve appreciated your input to this conversation 🙂

  5. Jessica

    Our girls got cell phones this spring, they have to hand them over at random for inspection of text messages being sent.
    My 12 year old has facebook, I have the password and review her page and messages regularly.
    Internet is permission first on my laptop and not a daily thing.
    We’re probably overly free with the tv. We only have netflix though, so we aren’t at the mercy of advertisers and whatever is on at the moment.
    Video games are the bane of my existence. My husband is a big game player and he sees nothing wrong with hours of play on weekends. A couple weekends ago, after playing Lego Batman 2 for two hours, I requested they turn it off. I came out of the kitchen a few minutes later to see they had in fact turned it off, but they were putting in another game!!! The husband didn’t understand why I was irritated. So I’m becoming more strict on video games.
    I’m excited that it’s getting nice out because that means the 4 of them can go out to play and be active! Now if we could all get healthy.

  6. Frances

    Our oldest (12) has an ipod touch, but the he doesn’t have access to our wireless account and my husband has set it up to send an alert to his iphone if he tries to access other wifi (he did once and lost his ipod for 2 weeks as a result)
    Gaming of all types (Wii, XBox, and computer) is limited to an hour a day, but often less than that is played because we’re so busy. On weekends it’s occasionally more if behaviour has been good and we don’t have a lot going on. No T or M rated games are allowed (and this will not magically change overnight once the firstborn turns 13, much to his chagrin)
    since our oldest is only 12 no one of the kids have FB (since the age allowed is 13) WE will likely allow FB once they turn 13, but again with strict monitoring.
    None of our kids have cell phones yet. They will be required to purchase their own and pay the bill once we decide they may have one. Monitoring will be frequent and all devices must be left in the living room to charge by 8 pm….

  7. Samantha

    Our daughter is not yet two–so much doesn’t apply yet. However, we do limit her screen time. It’s rare that she sees anything on the computer (and when she does its a two minute YouTube video of a giraffe). She is not allowed to play on our iphones, kindles, or ipads. The one exception is that she can watch a cartoon on our Chiropractor’s iphone while I get adjusted.

    We had intended to not allow her to watch any television until around age 5. However, when we realized she was speech delayed friends recommended the “Signing Time” Series. I still have mixed feelings about allowing even a half hour of TV a day—but it has enabled her to have a huge range of communication much earlier than she could have otherwise. So I do feel like its been an okay trade off. She gets one episode a day (half an hour). I also feel like it has helped her verbal communication as well.

    People are often amazed at how long she can “sit through a story.” She LOVES books and I think that will go a long way in her life. Although, the life of The Lorax may be limited if I have to read it again today….

    • Lauren

      I have 2 kids, a 7 yr old daughter and a 5 yr old son. With my daughter I had the best of intentions until I realised that every now and again I need to shower or go to the bathroom without an audience 🙂 that’s about the time she started getting some screen time (tv anyway – Play School (Australian show), Sesame Street, Baby Einstein DVDs etc. She never watched a lot but enough that I could get things done if she wasn’t sleeping and sometimes we watched them together. She was talking at 9mths, putting sentences together by 10mths and holding conversations that made strangers say “how old is she?” by the time she was a year old. She loves books and could read (and understand) most of what was written in a newspaper well before she started school. I’m not sure that there is much of a correlation between screen time and speech and attention span any more. My son is our wild one. He had more TV than his sister because life became busier but he was still restricted to not even daily viewing as a toddler. He still spoke on time, he reads (although he will claim he can’t) and he’s a normal, active, social little boy.

      Both of our kids have a DS, we have a wii (which we play as a family), my daughter has an ipod touch (with just about everything disabled, she can access our wifi for the games that need it but doesn’t have safari or youtube etc. we have the password so if she wants to download any apps or purchase anything she has to ask us) and they both have regular access to a computer.

      I’m a teacher and I know how important it is for kids to have access to and understand technology so we allow them to use it but guide and supervise while they are still so young.We still have regular screen free weekends where we do things together, outside in the fresh air! but they do love their screens and these days I don’t think you can deny them that.

      • Samantha

        I don’t disagree that it is important for children to learn and understand technology, but I don’t think its necessary at under five at all. And more to the point, kids don’t have a hard time picking all of that up either!

        I have found the book “Your Child’s Growing Mind” by Jane Healy to be very helpful look at the science behind cognitive development and the interchange between “screen time” as well as the push towards earlier and earlier education of children (in the US at least)

        My daughter rarely watches TV without me present since its a show that teaches ASL. It doesn’t matter if she learns Sign if I don’t know what she’s signing! She plays in her room behind a safety gate when I shower…and I long ago gave up thinking I would ever have privacy in the bathroom to be honest.

        Since we don’t have cable TV it is easy to limit it. I myself was not exposed to much TV growing up and I don’t think it harmed me.

        • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

          I agree, Samantha. Kids pick it up so easily and quickly. In my opinion a two or three year old doesn’t *need* exposure to it. They are not going to be “behind” technologically because they started so late. We live in a rural area and don’t have any TV reception. In order to get any (which we won’t) we’d need satellite (or whatever the newest technology is). We have a Netflix subscription (for DVD’s) which suits our “needs” just fine.

  8. Ashlee

    Even if you are friends with your kids on facebook, they can choose which statuses you can see and not see. They can make it so just your account can’t see a certain picture and or status. So, maybe check the privacy settings as well.

  9. Marley

    To be honest with you as a teenager who has just left home (and moved countries), I believe you are doing a disservice to your children by keeping them so sheltered. Controlling every facet of their social activity will eventually result in emotional immaturity later in life because they lack the exposure and experience needed to cope with life’s many challenges. The world is filled with many bad, untrustworthy people and I fully commend you for protecting and loving your family with utmost love and respect. I can respect that you do not want them to be exposed to nasty websites, people and experiences. However, all of your children will one day grow up and (hopefully) leave home to become their own person, free of their parents and they need to learn that their choices are trusted and respected. Access to the internet should be monitored to the extent that they’re safe and protected but I cannot fathom why a (trustworthy as you say yourself) 17 year old would need someone monitoring their screen time? Young adults need the opportunities to explore the world for themselves and the bad experiences should be treated as a learning curve rather than being kept in the dark. I don’t mean this as disrespect but I worry that when they eventually form their own opinions and feelings free of their family and parents rule that they may struggle due to lack of exposure.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Marley,
      First off, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I’m not sure if you’re a regular reader or not, but “sheltered” is not a term that accurately describes my children. We sent Adalia to Bastyr University for her doula training just weeks after her 14th birthday. At 15 she spent the summer in Honduras. Judah (15) will be spending the summer in Zambia where we will have *no* contact with him.

      I have no doubt that my children will leave home (and before they’re 25!) and do very well. I don’t actually monitor the amount of time Adalia (17) spends on the computer because she has learned to balance that time. Judah, on the other hand, will fall into playing his PSP for hours on end, until he gets irritable. He will be the first to admit when I limit his screen time and require him to spent a portion of his day active (he puts in an hour of work around our property and runs or bikes) he feels much better physically and mentally.

      Thanks for you input.

      • Marley

        Hi Renee, thanks for your response. I am a regular reader and believe your family is beautiful. I thank you for sharing your story with us 🙂

        My issue was more with the fact that you feel the need to read through private conversations and monitor online activity to the point of showing distrust rather than caring. If it were me, I would feel disrespected and that my parents didn’t recognise my choices as being void and separate of themselves. I think it is excellent that Adalia and Judah are having overseas expeditions although I’ve noticed in previous posts you’ve emphasised TMI’s hands-on Christian approach which seem to be very inline with your own family values. To put it bluntly, that’s not realistic nor indicative of modern America. Allowing your children to experience the other side of the coin, so to speak, will give them the opportunity to choose and have free will over how they want to live their lives and result in far less confusion and immaturity when they leave home. I have classmates who have been brought up in large, sheltered, Christian families and have even travelled alone! Yet still lack the emotional maturity to relate to different people or experience to understand many of life’s complexities. It’s funny because those are the same people who are so very curious and inquisitive and more likely to go wild at the nearest opportunity. I’ve been abused and neglected by my parents in the past yet I am forever thankful that I’ve had those experiences to know that I am not close-minded, ignorant or overwhelmed when I meet people that don’t strictly adhere to my own values. The fact that you feel the need to monitor conversations so intensely seems to me that you don’t trust your children and that in turn, breeds resentment.

        • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

          Marley,
          Thanks for the response and clarification. I’m not sure what I said that left the impression that we monitor private conversations. As I just said to another commenter, we *don’t* read their private messages but *will* if we have reason to. As I mentioned before, Adalia got her doula training two hours away at Bastyr University, alone. That was an entirely secular atmosphere, with people from a variety of walks of life. There was nothing sheltered about that experience. She probably knows more about reproduction at this point than I do 🙂 She currently attends community college, not just classes but also extracurricular events that interest her. Nobody who knows here would consider her sheltered or lacking in emotional maturity.

      • sasa

        I also feel like it is disrespectful to monitor private communication. If you don’t want them to give them the freedom then don’t allow the whole thing in the first place. This kind of defeats the purpose.

    • Anna

      I would like to respond to Marley and sasa about monitoring private conversations. I have already raised two teenaged girls, who are now out in the real world, on their own, and completely unsheltered….and successful. When one daughter was a younger teen-not 17, but about 14, she did give us reason to monitor her conversations. It is what a good parent does. When you see warning signs in your child- changes in moods that are not hormone related, changes in peer groups, sneaky behavior-then it is always a good time to do a little check up. We had an agreement with our daughter that we would have access to her email if she gave us a reason (this was before FB and just when MySpace was getting popular). She gave us a reason. When we went to check her email, she had changed her password. We installed keylogging software on our computer and got her new password and read every.single.email. Our actions kept her friend from being sexually abused by a step-parent. It kept our daughter from attending a party where oral sex was the main course. It got a bully/sexual predator off the school bus. Are these good enough reasons to monitor a private conversation? I think YES. We never confronted our daughter with a “ha-HA we have your new password and read all your email you brat! Your are grounded forever!” We just silently went behind her back and contacted the appropriate parent/authority. The kids never knew where the info came from. When the weekend of the party approached, we surprised our daughter with a trip to visit her grandad for the weekend. We started randomly talking about the evils in popular culture and how sad people are when they feel like they are stuck in a certain lifestyle. We never let her go to a friend’s house without speaking to the other parents first. Because she knew we would do this, she never bothered to ask to go someplace that she knew would be unsupervised. My husband loves heavy metal music, but he spent much time explaining the meaning of each song lyric and how this music doesn’t glorify the dark life, but wails about the sadness and hopelessness of being stuck. Our daughter got the message and started to turn away from her peer group on her own. By the time she was past the crazy, teenaged years she had experienced so much unsheltered life in the public school system/ popular culture that you would be sick with what she knew and was exposed to. So yes, my daughter had “free will” to experience the “other side of the coin” but her choice was never a valid one and was completely unacceptable. Was her choice invalid because it was different from the way we wanted her to go? I think not. I would never suggest that a 14 year old performing a bj on a bully/predator from the bus is a good or wise or valid choice. Today, those friends of hers who were allowed freedom to choose and be unsheltered are now suffering with drug addictions, fatherless children, etc. My daughter is married to a wonderful young man. She didn’t make it out of high school with a lot of friends, but she also made it out without herpes or other STDs. All because we made an unpopular choice and monitored her private conversations when we were given a reason. As an adult, she has come back and thanked us for being so strict about where she could go. She said it was nice to have that excuse that she “had to go to her grandad’s house” when her peers wanted her to party.

      • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

        Wow, Anna! Thank you so much for sharing this story.

  10. C Smith

    I really don’t limit my kids screen time at all. I know, that sounds shocking doesn’t it! We don’t have cable TV. We watch videos and Netflix. Shows that I don’t mind my kids watching are saved onto the favorites section. We have one kid computer in our playroom and sites that they are allowed to go to are also saved in favorites, we have a seperate computer for schoolwork. If the kids see a link they would like to go to they ask and we check it out together. Most of my kids have a handheld game, they mostly use them on long car trips or in waiting rooms, all of them were given as gifts from family or were bought by the kids themselves, I don’t buy games for presents, they have to earn the money and buy them. My 17 yr old has a cell phone that she bought last year and pays for with her own money. The kids are really too busy to spend much time with any of these things. They have schoolwork, chores, sports, time with friends, time with family, pets to care for. Occasionally a kid will get really interested in something and spend all of their spare time watching a show or on a particular website, that has rarely lasted more than a couple of days before they’ve given it up for something more interesting, like building a secret club in the woods or just reading a book.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thanks for sharing. As I said on the outset, I don’t believe there is any one set of rules that needs to be followed. Each family needs to find what works for them.

  11. Iris

    I’m 18 and I think the previous poster said it perfectly: mistrust breeds resentment.
    I do agree with your approach to limiting screen-time, at least for your younger kids. A focused student, throughout school I imposed strict limits on my computer time – I didn’t allow myself to log on until after 9 pm, or until all my work was done. However, I had friends whose self-discipline often crumbled in the face of Facebook, TV shows and video games, and really could have used some time restrictions.
    I have a very different view to yours in terms of monitoring online activity. From the first week of high school, my cohort was given regular cyber-safety talks – from police officers, government reps and even victims of online exploitation – and made fully aware of the risks involved with social media, and particularly Facebook. If my parents – who have no background in cyber safety to speak of – thought it necessary to stalk my friends’ online profiles, read my private messages and monitor my texts I would have been deeply offended. The way I see it, they don’t superintend my academic life by standing over my shoulder and doing my assignments for me, so why would they be overseers of my social life? If my parents had not trusted me – or trusted my discretion regarding the company I keep – I’m sure I would have come to resent them.
    I believe the situation sets itself up for self-fulfilling prophecy. My parents often tell me that I’m responsible, but if they were to start treating me like a small child, incapable of independently formulating my own worldview or even overseeing my own social life, I would respond by behaving irresponsibly (or perhaps by becoming thoroughly, mindlessly dependent on their judgment; I’m not sure which is worse). I’ve seen this exact pattern in an old family friend. Sensible and straight-laced in primary school, she was restricted and, in her own words, mistrusted by her parents throughout her teenage life. She has now gone off to college on the other side of the country (a very unusual choice here in Australia) and judging by her Facebook profile (the irony!) is experiencing what I can only describe as a late adolescence.
    I hope you don’t view this as a personal attack on your family. A long time reader, I think your older kids seem very responsible and compassionate, if not extremely protected.

    • Marley

      Very well put. Surprisingly, I also live in Australia! What a coincidence. I completely agree with everything you said. Every child and age is different, younger children should be monitored. Screen time DOES affect their brains and sleeping patterns. I think once a child becomes a teen though, there is a balancing game to allowing them to have more freedom. By the age of 16, your parents should be able to trust your judgment and discretion on the company you choose to keep. Safety talks on the nature of cyberbullying is far more effective than outright banning or putting tough restrictions on something that is just asking for kids to rebel. The language of “resisting temptation” seems to me like some commenters would rather act like something doesn’t happen or that shielding their children from the big, bad outside world is going to protect them whereas in reality, they will only be overwhelmed and confused when they are free of their parents control. I find that adding friends, friends parents and monitoring conversations to be invasive and intrusive rather than “caring”. I have no care for what my parents do or who they talk to and I don’t pass judgement or criticism so it’s not much to ask to be given the same respect. The dichotomy between parent/child changes drastically upon entering puberty and new boundaries have to be learned by both parties by around the age of 16 and up.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Here is our philosophy: as long as we have no reason not to trust a child, we don’t read their personal emails, facebook messages, etc. The moment we have a reason to no longer trust, it’s an open book. We don’t read our kids emails or Facebook messages, but I can assure you we absolutely would if we had any reason to. So far it has been a non-issue.

      I suppose it’s completely possible that my kids go CRAZY as soon as they leave home to make up for everything they’ve been deprived of, but here’s the thing: they don’t feel that way.

      When we were in Texas we had people from our church coming to stay at our house to help out with our younger kids. Most of the people who came didn’t even know our family personally…when we got home I heard one consistent thing from people and that was how mature and focused our teens were. Several people approached me and said they were amazed that not only did my kids know what they wanted to do (for jobs when they are adults), but they had a plan to accomplish it and were already working toward that goal.

      Limiting screen time and being friends on Facebook is in no way hindering them.

      • Samantha

        I think its interesting how much emphasis is put on the importance of social media these days. While I spend too much time on Facebook myself—I see the real value of being “unwired” for a day. Facebook itself is not a good or bad thing, it can be used either way. And I don’t think there is anything disrespectful about monitoring your children’s time online–if they are aware of it. They understand the expectations. I think in many ways it allows them the freedom to be MORE open because they know if something becomes uncomfortable that they have backup. It’s a LOT to expect a fourteen year old to safeguard themselves online. I remember being fourteen and thinking that I was *so old* and *so mature.*

        Emotions are very high during the teen years and you so want to feel competent. If someone online is being predatory I think its vital for parents to know so that they can help their teens in that situation. Also, at one point, most of my male teenage cousins had posted pictures of their genitals on facebook…and you have to wonder about the employers who may google their names sometime in the future. And I wonder if they would have done that if they had been friends with their mothers and fathers (they were as it happened friends with my mom who told their parents.)

        My family and my upbringing are very different from Renee’s family. My parents monitored very little when I was a teenager. They didn’t want me hanging around with kids who DIDN’T drink. They were furious when, at age 14, I informed them I would not longer be drinking alcohol. They never knew where I was, and it was frightening. Honestly, I wanted more genuine thoughtful control over my life than I was given. There were days I would come home and they didn’t know I had been out.

        Our daughter, (we’re a two mom, two faith family with one child and expecting a second this winter) is barely two—so who knows what social media will look like in ten years. What I do know is that homeschooling doesn’t mean seclusion from the world. I’ve known homeschooled kids who are socially naive, and I’ve known public school kids who are too. I’ve also known homeschooled kids who ARE NOT socially naive or immature.

        Renee’s children don’t sound sheltered in the least. While I do not know the family personally–I do believe that modeling is the key to parenting. Renee doesn’t shelter herself and I don’t think she shelters her children. When I emailed her a couple years ago with some questions about adoption, I thought–no way will she respond. She’s a conservative Christian and I’m a lesbian. I’ve known a lot of conservative Christians who cut all ties with me after finding that out.

        Renee emailed me back and has been a huge help with support and advice about my daughter’s feeding difficulties. A recent book she recommended has made a HUGE difference for our family. And that is one of the beautiful things about the internet—it does enable us to have interchanges with very different people and learn a deeper sense of diversity and respect.

        • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

          Samantha,
          Thank you for sharing your story…it is amazing to see different people’s perspective on things.

          Funny, I don’t remember the email about adoption in particular (but I have gotten quite a few over the years) but I of course remember the ones about your daughter and am a reader of your blog. We have a lot in common with our toddlers and I value our internet “friendship” 🙂

  12. Lindsay

    I really enjoyed this post, it was an interesting look at how things work for your family. I”m not sure if you are aware but the PSP and certain models of the DS lite are fully internet capable. The internet surrounds us now and in my experience it’s as much a matter of awareness as restriction. I think you’re definitely striking a balance between the two.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yes, I’m aware of that, but thanks for the heads up.

  13. sunny

    Hi Renee, ‘Trust but verify’ is sort of what you are describing and I appreciate that. Interesting comments from the young folks. I too knew all about parenting when I was in my teens and 20s. 🙂

    When I was young, the same sort of conversations were about whether a parent would/should go through their teens belongings to see about drugs or clues to other behavior. I remember heated discussions from parents about whether they would or would not go through a purse or a bedroom.

    It is possible on one hand that “some” of the more restricted kids will go astray or resent. but what I personally think is more scary are situations where very trusting parents find their child is in trouble and the parents had no idea.

    I have one child who is not yet a teen. She has a $7 ‘pay a you go’ trac phone from Fred Meyer. It does text, but she doesn’t care to use it much. it isn’t a cool phone. She does have some use of my ipad. I have found great tutorials on youtube of how to make it ‘kid friendly’ and turn off the internet etc.

    One item I recommend is ‘www.mousemail.com’. It is a mail monitoring system for young kids. So my daughter’s emails and contacts are filtered through me first. I love it and so does she. I don’t know what I’ll do as she gets older, depends on what kind of kid she is by then. Take care and thansk for sharing.

      • sunny

        Yes, that was my point….maybe I didn’t express it well. Even from my childhood, way before electronics, I remember parents discussing and disagreeing on the issue of privacy (some would search bedrooms, purses for drugs and birth control. others would not). Also there was mail before email….which could be read by parents or not. Its not a new issue, just seems intensified. Everyone has to find their own answer.

      • Lauren

        My 5 yr old got a letter from the dentist the other day (obviously a “you’re due for a checkup” note) and I wouldn’t open that, it was addressed to him, I certainly wouldn’t search his room. At some point you have to trust that you have instilled values in them and given then the space to develop their own thoughts and feelings. They need respect for their own privacy but they also need to know they can talk to you. There is a fine line between being their friend and a parent they can trust.

        • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

          I am a parent first, anything else comes after that. I have never opened a child’s mail…but would if I felt I had just cause 🙂

  14. Sarah

    Hi Renee,
    I really value your opinions and how you have worked things out for your family. I have followed a lot of your advice and have found it to work out well. I do have a question, you mentioned you don’t do games over “mature” rating, but what about books? I just ask because I had seen a couple of time where you had let your younger boys read Jurassic Park. So I let my 11 year old read it. I should have pre-read it, and that is my fault for not doing so…he told me it has a good bit of swearing in it and is pretty graphic. I assumed violence must not bother you, but now I am thinking it does, so how do you handle books? 🙂

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Hmm…sorry about that. Yes, Jurassic Park has lots of swearing in it. In fact, I didn’t realize until after they had read it that my children learned several new words from the book. They even said, “I didn’t even know it was a swear word until they kept saying it over and over…”

      As far as violence, I don’t mind dinosaur violence 🙂 What I do object to is murder and rampaging. The thing about mature video games is the realistic first person killing. Chuck and I think those games are sick and feed a side of human nature that doesn’t need to be fed, therefore they will never be allowed in the house.

      I obviously cannot monitor everything my children read (no would I really want to). One thing we discourage the kids away from is romance books…so much of it is trashy. None of the kids are interested in reading it anyway, and there are so many millions of books out there to choose from.

  15. Emily

    What a great post! As one of your ‘young’ readers (20!), I really like being able to read these lifestyle posts, and gain an insight into your life and maybe take a few pointers on when I do hit my parenting years 🙂

    I love the fact that your ‘rules’ make sense for your family – especially love the no DS during the day for the older kids so the younger ones don’t sit round watching! Idle video game watching is a complete bug bear for me – so this is definitely an idea I may implement one day when I have kids 🙂

  16. Delta

    I am writing this comment in response to both this post and your last post on parenting teens. I am the fourth out of six children (in seven years). When my oldest brother was Adalia’s age and I was fourteen all of the things you said about your teenagers could have been said and were said about us. People were constantly amazed by our family, by the mental and spiritual matureness of us teenagers, we had pretty similar social media rules, we didn’t get an allowance, my mum and my dad “trusted” us the same way you trust your children, we were the same way “not sheltered” as your kids are not sheltered and none of us was rebellious.

    When I was seventeen I became an Atheist, in my opinion not to rebel against my parents, but because I was looking for answers. For answers I could live with, for a worldview I could live with, for a world I could live in. When I was eighteen I went to college in a different country, I found myself, my personality, independent from my brothers and sisters, independent from my mum and my dad, independent from my mum and my dads believes, independent from being the fourth out of six. A year later I moved in with my longtime boyfriend, against my parents will. I again honestly deep down believe that it was not to “rebel” against my parents, but because it seemed like the only right thing for me to do in my life and with my life.

    I am not sure why I write you this. Because if someone had told this exact same story to my mum when I was fourteen, or fifteen or even sixteen, I would not have seen myself in it. I guess I am writing this to state that children’s view on trust from parents in teenage years, on being brought up sheltered, on appropriate rules for teenagers, on having been mature and responsible teenagers, on having been given your own choices as teenagers, on having been given the space to live out your personality as teenagers can change, not to say that it is going to happen in your family, just that it can happen. My older brothers and sisters haven’t “rebelled” the way I did, but one of them has major depression issues right now, and I know that he shares many of my views regarding our upbringing or more precisely regarding my mum and dads approach to teenage parenting. Maybe I am also writing this to state that some things can’t be changed reversely. A lost youth can’t be gotten back.

    My mum and my dads approach to teenage parenting has changed radically with my two younger brothers, in my opinion to the better. I am trying really hard not to do so, because it doesn’t make any sense but sometimes I envy my younger brothers, for what they have.

    I am sorry for all the language mistakes I made, but english is only my third language and I am still working on it.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Delta, I am well aware that I am not in control of their decisions. What I can control is what is acceptable in our house, here and now. My husband comes from a family with 4 kids and was raised in a Christian home. Two siblings rebelled, two did not. I realize that once they leave this house, they will make their own decisions. Our responsibility now is to gently guide and protect them, and I’ll make no apologies for that.

  17. Jenny Goff

    Hi Renee,
    Thanks so much for your wonderful post! Our family also has rules and guidelines almost identical to your family. And as someone with 6 of my children already adults and living on their own (11 still at home) , I can say the guidelines have worked with our family. All of my adult children have commented on how much they appreciate our guidance and limits as they were growing up. Sometimes they did not like them when they were younger but now see they were for their own good. Now with our teens the rules are the same. Trust is a big thing. If I can trust you I do not see much of a need to monitor but if I see the need, I will be checking things out. As I see it this is my job as Mom. I am not trying to control my kids but it is my job to protect them. The world we live in is vastly different than just a few years ago and young ones are not always equipped to deal with the challenges. That is why they have us!

  18. Greek reader

    As a kid, my parents always said I was very mature and made good decisions etc, and always bragged about how trustfull and sincere I was. When I was a teen, they gave me a cell phone (although I didn’t relly wanted it) just to use it when I am out, in case something happens and we may need to contact each other. When I was in highschool, I began to suspect that something was “wrong” with my phone from time to time, even if it was in the same spot I left it before I leave the house. I have to mention that my parents knew my friends, all of them of good character, from good families and ALWAYS knew where i will be and with WHOM, about what time I will be back. In adition, I always had my hands full with something (studying, attending lessons, practising) and they always knew my schedule. So, if I was even a little late, they would ask the reason and I was always sincere. After all these, why in the end did they check my phone reading through my sms in secret? and when I suspected them, they would deny it. they had no reason not trust me, but they just didn’t. In fact, the more sincere I was, the less they believed ans trusted me, because “that’s what teens do”. As a result, I lost ALL my confidence in them and I just couldn’t wait wait to get out of the town. (never matter things got worse after, just because they couldn’t affect/control my life so easily) The good result is that now I know the only one I can trust is Him (and my husband 🙂 )
    Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to show how parents can turn things over and against them by being overprotective.
    And by the way, I love your blog and the way you raise your kids. 🙂

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