Posts Tagged ‘teens’

We originally posted this picture as a joke, but I’ve had more comments about this pic than ANY family pic we’ve taken. It seems to sum up today’s modern family.  Especially one with TEENS & MEDIA.

Helping teens navigate the media superhighway is difficult.  I’ve heard parents take many approaches.  Some say, “There’s NO WAY my kid is getting a cell phone, facebook page, etc.  There’s too many dangers out there.”  Others are on the other end of the spectrum, getting their kids into the technical revolution with little or no regard to age.  (our 5 year-old son Zeke can already play games on my phone and iPad)  Most of the parents I talk to seem to be OK with a facebook or a smartphone for their teens, but they just debate AT WHICH AGE a kid is ready to handle it.  After all, there are many temptations out there. There are many predators out there. There are all kinds of traps for young people.   What’s the solution?  How can I find a balance?

After 13 years of youth ministry and counseling with teens and parents, my wife and I have come to this realization:  When your child is 13, you only have 5-6 years to “prepare” them for life on their own.  That means 5-6 years to help them manage their own finances (with a debit card, checking & savings account);  drive a car (get gas, deal with maniacs, change a tire, find their way around the Valley); start dating (establishing trusting, healthy boundaries with the opposite sex); and yes, navigate the media superhighway (including: downloading music, using the internet, powering up a smartphone along with all the features and functions).   Overwhelmed yet?  Don’t be!  Have some fun with it.  Parenting is an adventure!

The bottom line is that your teens WILL get online; fire up a friend’s smartphone/iPad; download music, etc.  They will do this WITH YOU or WITHOUT YOU.  As parents, we’ve decided to help them while they’re in our supervision.  We’ve decided to have some fun with it. We’ve decided to help give our kids some godly filters they can practice along the way.

Because of this, here’s how we “coach” our kids to handle their technology:

1.  Facebook:  We allowed our kids to get a facebook page when they turned 13.  What we check: At first, we checked their friends, posts, pictures, status updates, etc.  Yes, we check ALL of them. Then, when trust is established, we back off and check periodically.  We also invite other parents to check on our kids as well.  We know their password and can check at any time.  Actually, we’ve also seen it as a blessing.  Our kids are so good at keeping everything up to date, that we usually know what they’re thinking, where they’re at, and what they’re up to.  (It’s actually helped us get to know what’s really ‘inside’ the mind of our kids. They post random thoughts about everything from music to life in the US.  Stuff that may not even come up in conversation!) There have been times when we have asked our girls to remove a post or picture that we (or someone else) has found misleading or offensive. We use that as a teachable moment to remind them how important it is to consider how OTHERS may interpret something.  Consequences: We reserve the right to suspend their page or remove privileges all together if we feel that our rules or guidelines have not been followed.  Once, we had to terminate their page and set up a new one because of a hacker.  But, to tell you how “good” our kids are…One of my daughters chose to “fast” from Facebook for a year so she could devote herself more fully to God and not have it consume her time.  Amazing.

2. Cell phone:  We first let them get a cell phone at age 11.  (basic phone) But with today’s more-readily accessible technology, they all had “smartphones” [iPhones] by age 13.  Now that EVERYTHING is on our kids’ phones, this is their main lifeline.  This is where they download their music, go on facebook, buy apps, etc.  What we check: Just like facebook, we reserve the right to check ANY of their content on their phones at any time.  We do random checks of all txt messages, patrol their contact lists, music library, etc AT ANY TIME.  Occasionally, we will question them about a song and ask them to remove it, but if they can demonstrate a godly filter, we let quite a bit slide.  There have been times we’ve had to step in and PROTECT our kids from others and from themselves.  (Once I had to ask a stranger to STOP CALLING my daughter. She had given her number to a friend who’d passed it on to someone else. It was bothering her AND me. We turned it into a teachable moment to remind our kids to use caution when handing out your number to others and to remind their friends NOT to give out their number without permission. Another time, I asked another student to stop calling so late [after 9 on a school night] & explained what our rules were)  Other boundaries: Currently, we do NOT allow cell phone usage during dinner, after 9pm on weeknights/11pm weekends, or during any ‘family experience’ (outings or movies, etc.).    Consequences: We also allow our kids to manage their own ‘account’, but they’re still attached to our family plan.  For example, if they go over on their media usage, the penalty will come out of their allowance.  They’ve only made that mistake ONCE. This creates responsibility.  We have found that even the THREAT of taking their phone for a week is the biggest punishment they can endure. (it’s like the “old school days” of getting GROUNDED because it shuts them out from their world)  It makes for a great motivator!

3. The “matching” plan. For awhile, we had our kids spend as much time IN THE BIBLE as they did IN THE MEDIA.  We never had to worry about how much time they were spending on their phone this way. If they spent an hour on their phone, they spent an hour reading the Bible.  “But dad, my Bible is on my phone”, they’d say.  “Good point. Try the one that has pages you can turn”, I’d counter.  Ha! Can’t pull one over on me!

The key to remember is that EVERY family is different. Just find something you can manage and something that can work with you.  And most importantly, ALWAYS remember the formula for success with any household RULE:

RULES – RELATIONSHIP = Rebellion and Resentment

RULES + RELATIONSHIP = Reverence and Respect

The stronger your relationship is with your kids, the more fun you’ll have and the easier it will be.  The stronger your relationship, the more respect they’ll have for the freedoms you give and the way you coach them through life.

Good luck!


Helping children understand finances.

 My wife and I have 4 kids ages 16,15,13, 5.  Like most families, we give our children an allowance. We give them a small amount of money on a regular basis that they manage using the “10-10-80” principle:  tithing 10%; saving 10%; and spending the 80%.  Recently, we’ve noticed that even though we’ve been diligent at helping them establish a Godly priority for their finances, we’ve never given them a healthy strategy to help them manage their spending.  Let’s face it…you can 10-10-80 yourself to debt if you’re still not disciplined in how you spend the 80%. Here are some of the things we’ve done throughout the years that have had positive results:

Allowance $.  We make sure to pay them the same amount every 2 weeks. This gets them in the habit of knowing their ‘rate of pay’, so they can begin saving for specific items and budgeting. However, we have also made it known that their allowance is NOT based only on their chores. Many of their chores are things they’re just expected to do around the house. Sometimes, we’ll even give them extra money for doing ‘extra’ things. But we didn’t want money to be the only motivating factor for doing stuff.

Eating out.  Give each child a set amount ($5) and tell them they can spend it however they want.  If they want fries, burger and a soda, that’s OK, but they may want to buy an ice cream instead of the soda. Giving them cash will help them learn how to shop on a budget and help them prioritize how they want to spend it.  Once, my daughter asked, “Dad, do we have to go out? I’d rather save this for something else”.  Hmmm…I think she’s getting it.

Clothes Shopping.  The typical kid wants it all (shoes, shirts, jeans, a watch or jewelry, toys, etc.) Normally, we just go and buy them the stuff. But the key is to involve them and give them ownership. So, if your kid needs clothes…First, tell them how much money they have to start with…let’s say $50. Next, pick a shopping day and have them watch for sales so they can plan out where they can go to get the stuff. The point is to get them to work within their means and make their money stretch as far as it can. Maybe they skip the bracelet to buy a belt. Or, they pass on the name-brand jeans to get 2 pairs of jeans somewhere else.

Family Trips.  When going to the movies, zoo, theme park, etc., as a family…again, start with a specific amount of money.  Decide as a family how the money will be spent and remember, when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Eliminate gift cards.  The danger with gift cards is that kids never see any money changing hands.  When they’re young, kids need to begin by understanding the basics of money and the importance of “when it’s gone, it’s gone”.  If they grow up with the mindset of “wave this plastic card at the cashier and get stuff” mentality, they’ll be in trouble and in debt for the rest of their life.

As kids grow older, pre-paid Visa cards may be a good next step, so they can start to learn the principle of using ‘plastic’ as a money-in/money-out discipline.

Results.  We’ve seen all kinds of results:  They are saving more. They are wiser with their spending. We make it a habit of telling them “we can’t afford that right now”. And, they don’t complain when we say “no, we’re eating at home because it’s cheaper.” It’s also a great motivator for us, too. The other day, my daughter asked, “Dad, can we go to Disneyland when we get out of debt?” Gulp–That sure makes me want to get out of debt sooner. Oh, by the way, on her suggestion–our family started saving for the Disneyland trip that day…together!