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Archive for Monday, August 29, 2011

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Double Take: Take control of 24-hour phone use

August 29, 2011

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Wes: For most of us old enough to have teenagers, remember when the epitome of adolescence was a phone that seemed to grow out of a child’s ear around age 13? Back in the day that phone was connected to cord, or later a radio signal from handset to base. That made it easier for parents to turn off the phone at will. Most of us had “phone curfews,” which we struggled to violate. But because everyone in the family relied on a single wire coming into a home, parents could listen in and enforce the rules. It’s hard to believe now, but affordable cell phone service for teens only emerged about 12 years ago. Texting only came to prominence in the middle of the decade, and smartphones are even newer.

Once phones became individualized personal communication devices, many parents let the old phone rules they grew up with slide. Miranda shares a great list of no-fly zones that should be discussed on the day you activate your 10-year-old’s service, so I’ll just hit my number one. Fresh home from training at the American Psychological Association, I am again reminded of chronic level of sleep deprivation in this country, especially among teens. One of the chief reasons is how many kids now sleep with their phones.

I recommend that from day one, phones be on chargers at night, and chargers be safely in the parents’ bedroom. By the way, you’ll want to turn off the sound, because your teen’s friends will still be texting all night long, reminding us of how many parents still need to get on board with this radical idea from 1977.

Miranda: I admit I love my cell phone. My generation has been raised to feel most comfortable when communicating through technology, and parents enjoy the safety net of being in constant communication with their children. There are times, however, when it’s a problem glued to my hand. Here are a few places where cell phones should be out of sight.

School. Don’t you hate it when someone isn’t listening to your fascinating story because they’re texting or tweeting? That’s how teachers feel when you’re on the phone during a lecture. We all know that school isn’t supposed to be enjoyable, but who are you texting that isn’t there with you already?

l Public places. Have you ever seen one of those people screaming into their phone at the grocery store or while sitting at a nice restaurant? If you’re somewhere and your phone rings, just politely excuse yourself and go outside.

l Family time. If your parents haven’t nagged you to put away your phone yet, you’re a unicorn among your fellow teens. Leave it out of your family dinners, game night, visiting relatives and religious services. Your parents love you and want to spend time with you. If that isn’t reason enough, then remember that they pay the bill and have the ability to disconnect your contact with the outside world.

l Date night. If you’re out with a significant other, don’t be texting your friends. Whether you’ve been on two dates or 200, a relationship can’t grow if you’re more concerned with Facebook than conversation.

l Work. Even if you just work part-time because your parents made you, don’t text on the job. I leave my phone in my car at work to keep me from temptation. You’ll need to use that job for a recommendation someday. Being professional shows how mature you are.

— Dr. Wes Crenshaw is board certified in family and couples psychology (ABPP). Read about his writing and clinical practice at www.dr-wes.com. Miranda Davis is a Free State High School senior. Send your 200-word confidential question about adolescence and parenting to ask@dr-wes.com.

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