By: Jeff Wood of Drooling Daddy
As any parent with teens knows, speaking to them is very difficult. Add in the world of tech and it can be completely overwhelming. Face to face communicating and phone calls has been replaced by texting, tweets and snaps-how do we as parents deal with this? That’s the million dollar question.
For me, when my daughter hit the teen years there was a lot of struggle for me as I thought I was up to date with technology- but I was soon proved wrong. First came texting which honestly I’m still not a fan of. She can type so fast I swear her fingers are going to start smoking! I had to quickly figure out what I was doing and teach myself what the hell all these abbreviations mean (hello google dads new best friend). It took quite a long period of time to get my head wrapped around this. It doesn’t help as the way teens speak is forever changing. Texting became her a way of asking for things even when she was at home with us. You call downstairs, and then hear your phone buzz with a “what” reply. At first this drove me crazy but slowly I have accepted it and use texting to get her attention.
Social media is another tech craze that I had never used until my daughter started. I first got Twitter and Instagram just to monitor her accounts. I recommend this as a parent because it helps teach them that what they say and do on these sites can bite them in the ass. She has found out the hard way a few times that things can be taken out of context very fast and luckily this happened early in her social media life. Also employers these days often watch these accounts and may base what they think of you on what you post. Even dad has told her I’m not a fan of friends based on what I see to which she tells me, “they aren’t usually like this” to which I reply “this is all I know of them”-as she doesn’t tell me anything else about them so I’m left to pass judgement based on what they post.
Myself and her mom have monitored her phone use since day one. It has pissed her off on more than one occasion but like we say to her “you are our daughter and we will make sure you are ok”. All through high school her phone was the only way we knew what was going on with her life. I always told her that what I see on your phone doesn’t mean I know what is going on, that’s what face to face talks are for. I don’t know how many times she has said to me “You saw it on my phone so obviously you knew what I am doing”. It is so hard to communicate with someone who doesn’t want to talk face to face due to technology doing it for you. But as a parent you need to adapt to how a teen communicates or you may loose touch with them despite living in the same household together.
Now trying to get a teen to use a phone for talking is another story all together. It reminds me of my Great Grandma, where there was no hello or goodbye-just hang up when finished and a lot of confusion while the conversation is happening. I tried to teach phone etiquette only to be told I have no idea what I’m talking about. Well her first job is where she found that her dad actually knows what he is talking about!
The place where I struggle with tech and my daughter is Snap Chat. This has got to be the worst possible social media platform for a parent. Every thing done on there is secret and there is no way to monitor it, as the pictures/messages delete seconds after opening them. Now we held off as long as possible before allowing her to use it, which was a good thing as she got to see other people make huge mistakes using it- and finding out a screen shot can be taken so what you send can still get out. Thank god she saw that because as a dad with a teen daughter I am so scared she will send out the wrong thing and have it haunt her forever, but I trust her decisions with that app as she was taught well.
The one thing I can say to help other parents out is don’t rush your kids into all forms of tech. Monitor their phones and internet use. You will have to adapt to how they talk or you will be lost on how to communicate with them. Join social media to share things with them and if you are like me, you just might fall in love with it and get opened up into a whole new world that at first you thought was stupid. Now I’m even blogging before her (might add haha dad wins!), but it also allows me to have talks with her as she is in university now as an English major and helps dad out. I know when it comes to her depression and anxiety I have used tech to show her coping skills and social media to show her she isn’t alone. Sometimes adapting as a parent can lead to breakthroughs for your teen which might not have happened any other way.
The communication change isn’t just my daughter either, it’s a generational thing. I see it at work as well with the new people coming in. The leadership training I take has also been set up to address this to help us older folk understand how to talk to the younger generation. I will say this though, for the younger parents reading this, who won’t have this problem, trust me once your kids hit the teenage years there will be something new that you won’t get and they will love.