There are a number of parent volunteer opportunities throughout the year at LMS. A great way you can become involved right away is by volunteering for Wildcat Eyes. Wildcat Eyes is an opportunity for you to come to school in the morning (8:00 - 8:20), at lunch, or the first 20 minutes after school is dismissed and mingle with students in the commons. It is an informal time to get to know students and add the presence of another caring adult.
PARENT TEACHER ORGANIZATION
Technology: Parents Take Control
By Diana Simeon
When I was a teenager, our telephone hung on a wall in the kitchen. When I was on the phone, my
parents knew it. And when I talked for too long, ignoring homework or staying up past my bedtime, they
knew that too—and more often than not yelled at me to “Hang up!” How times have changed.
These days, with devices that range from cell phones to computers—and increasingly a single device
that does it all–teenagers have round-the-clock access to, well, everyone and everything: texting,
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, email, friends, foes, strangers and much, much more.
And, let’s face it: we parents often have no idea what our teenagers are up to. These devices are not
hanging on our kitchen walls. Teenagers can take them wherever they want—and they do, even to bed.
Of course, there are upsides to all this. Thanks to cell phones, we can reach our teenagers when we
need to and, more importantly, they can reach us.
But, experts warn that there are pitfalls too. Spending too much time online can mean missing out
on sleep or neglecting schoolwork. Social media and teenagers can be a volatile mix. And teenagers
sometimes make poor decisions with technology—such as texting while driving or sexting—that can
have dire consequences.
There’s no doubt that managing our teenagers’ use of technology can feel overwhelming. But it
shouldn’t, say the experts and parents whom Your Teen interviewed for this month’s issue.
“This is no different than anything else we have to manage for our teenagers,” stresses Dr. Georgette
Constantinou, a pediatric psychologist at Akron General Hospital.
The Big Picture
Teenagers love all kinds of technology, but they love their cell phones the best. According to research
from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more than 75 percent of teenagers have cell phones
(which is more than have computers).
What are they doing with them? Well, it will come as no surprise to any parent of a teenager that
they're texting. On average, teenagers send 50 text messages a day—or 1,500 a month—according to
the Pew Project, though about 30 percent (and growing) of teenagers are sending upwards of 100 texts
Many teenagers are also accessing the Internet on their phones (about 35 percent, according to Pew),
yet, the majority of them still use computers to go online.
However, experts note that we are at a convergence point in communications technology: what once
required several devices to accomplish is now distilled into one single gadget that fits in our pocket.
Smart phones–which offer all the capabilities of a cell phone, plus the ability to access the Internet–
are becoming increasingly popular with teenagers. Walk into a Verizon, Sprint or any other cell-phone
provider’s store and you'll be hard-pressed to find a phone that doesn't allow for a “data plan” to access
the Internet through your phone. Devices like the iPod Touch similarly allow teenagers to text, make
calls (yes, there’s an app for that) and access the Internet from anyplace with Wi-Fi.
But, what is perhaps most startling is just how much of the day teenagers are using technology, in
one form or another. The Pew Project found that more than 90 percent of teenagers go online several
times a day; studies also show that the amount of time teenagers spend using technology is upwards of
several hours a day, when all devices are taken into account.
This is cause for concern, Constantinou says. “Technology is overwhelming our teenagers’ lives. We
need to ask: ‘Are we giving our teenagers time to be real?’”
The Lure of Technology
When Nicole Klinkhamer moved in with her fiancé and his two teenage daughters late last year, she
knew that it wouldn't always be smooth sailing. The Chicago-area native anticipated the inevitable
challenges of being a stepmother to two teenagers. But, she never thought that technology would stand
in the way of getting to know, much less bond, with her soon-to-be stepdaughters.
“We’re a blended house, and we’re trying to learn how to deal with each other. I’m not kidding when I
say the cell phone is sometimes standing in the middle of a lot of conversation,” she says. “The phone
rules the roost.”
It’s a situation to which many parents can relate. Indeed, technology can be a source of conflict in many
households, in part because so many teenagers struggle with tuning it out.
“Teenagers have an intense desire to know what’s going on, and these gadgets offer constant access
to that,” explains John Duffy, a clinical psychologist in La Grange, Illinois, and author of The Available
Parent: Radical Optimism For Raising Tweens and Teens.
Like texting, Facebook and other social networking services—including Twitter, which is increasingly
popular with teens—can also be habit-forming. Research shows that teenagers spend, on average, 90
minutes each day updating their accounts.
5 Tips for Parents
So, what’s a parent to do? Well, start by accepting that all of this is here to stay, Duffy says. “Recognize
this is important to them. It’s not just to get under your skin. It means something to them.”
Then, make it your goal to ensure that your teenager has a healthy relationship with technology. Easier
said than done? Perhaps. But here are five strategies to get you started:
#1: Model Moderation.
Research shows that the No. 1 impact on our children’s behavior is our own behavior. So, parents that
are unable to disconnect from their gadgets—and if you regularly check your phone at the dinner table
or during the school play, this means you—cannot expect their teenagers to do otherwise.
“It is the unwise parent that sits there staring at a little screen and telling their kids, ‘Okay, enough
screen time.’ That is really poor modeling and kids are far more likely to follow the model than follow
the word,” Duffy explains. “I get it myself. If a text comes in while I’m talking to my son, my impulse is to
pick up the phone. And it takes a lot to say, ‘No, be present in this moment.’ But, it’s important.”
#2: Don’t Rush In.
What tween or younger teen has not lobbied their parent to get a smartphone or other hot gadget
(Hello, iPad)? But, experts caution that parents should not rush in. Though they’re often marketed as such, these
devices are not toys—and it’s important to wait until your child is mature enough to use them
This is especially true when it comes to smart phones, which allow users to access to the entire Internet.
“I don’t know why younger users need to have any Internet on their phone,” says Tracy Rush, an Austin,
Texas mom, who moderates a message board at iVillage.com where she regularly hears from parents
grappling with their children’s technology use.
Duffy agrees. “Eleven- and 12-year-olds don’t get the power of the tool and can get themselves into
real trouble.” He advises that parents wait until at least high school to introduce a smart phone, while
tweens and younger teens should make do with a more basic phone.
#3: It’s Your House; Set Rules.
The best way to help teenagers manage their use of technology—and to reduce the chance that
technology will be a source of conflict—is to set rules for technology use in your house.
And just like establishing rules for driving or curfew or anything else, parents need to make those rules
clear—and use consequences to enforce them.
“If you institute it as a house rule, then it’s a house rule,” Constantinou explains. “If it’s, ‘No texting
while we’re talking,” then there’s no texting while we’re talking. If it’s, ‘Don’t let your grades suffer,’
then if the grades suffer, the phone goes. Technology is a privilege, not a right.”
That’s how Rush handles it with her own 16-year-old daughter. “It is a privilege, no different than
being able to play sports or go to a friend’s house or anything else. You have to follow the rules of the
household, and if you are breaking the rules, you get privileges taken away,” she says.
Some house rules, such as no phones at the dinner table, may be hard and fast for as long as your
teenager is under your roof. But parents should expect that others will change over time, such as
increasing time on the computer for older teenagers.
“Once your kids get older, you have to show some degree of flexibility,” Duffy says.
Other areas to consider: no technology after 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.; no computers in the bedroom
(recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics); no taking phones or other communication
devices to bed; at social gatherings, your teenager’s guests leave their phones at the door (to limit
“drama,” Duffy says); limits on how long teenagers can use their devices each day; limits on the number
of texts your teenagers can send and receive each month; and, of course, no using the phone while
Last, but not least, expect your teenager to follow basic rules of etiquette. “If you are going to use it as
a means of communication, then set the same expectation of manners and grace for Facebook and the
phone as you would for everywhere else,” Constantinou recommends.
#4: Monitor, But Don’t Snoop.
Make it your job to have some idea what your teenagers are doing with their devices. But, be upfront
about it, the experts advise.
“I run into parents who don’t want their kids to know that they are monitoring them, so they find
themselves snooping and then snooping becomes the issue, and the parent doesn’t have a leg to stand
on in terms of the actual issue at hand,” Duffy says.
Stress to your teenagers that your expectation is that they will not do anything online or by text that
they wouldn't feel comfortable sharing with you. Friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter,
and tell them that if you feel it’s necessary, you will spot-check their texts or email. Tread carefully. You
can lurk, but resist commenting on your teenager’s status updates. If you feel you need to talk to your
teenager about their online behavior, take it offline.
Your goal: To ensure that your teens’ overall lack of experience—and occasional impulsivity—doesn’t
land them in trouble. Take sexting, which can include sending explicit pictures via text message. Being in
possession of a nude picture of a minor—even if it’s your teenager’s long-time girlfriend—is against the
law. Yet, teenagers continue to sext.
Facebook is another area where adolescents can stumble. Thoughtless status updates cause problems,
not just with friends, but also at school, where administrators say they are increasingly dealing with the
fall-out from social networking.
“It’s very impersonal. Students feel more comfortable saying things on Facebook that they wouldn’t
normally say to a person’s face,” says Kelly Anderson, a counselor at Shaker Heights Middle School in
Shaker Heights, Ohio. “It causes a lot of problems on Monday mornings.”
This fall, the school sent a letter home to parents, asking them to monitor their children’s Facebook
Perhaps the best reason to have some clue about what your teenager is doing online is that there is a
possibility—remote, but real—that your child will encounter a predator.
“I know of a seventh grader who had a Facebook account on his phone and was about an hour away
from meeting a 19-year-old sexual offender in the bathroom of a local mall, when his parents took a
look and stopped him,” Duffy says. “This was a complete shock. This is a very responsible kid, but he just
had no idea to whom he was talking.”
#5: Embrace What Your Teenagers Love.
Though, at times, it can feel that technology causes more problems in our homes than anything else, it
also offers a tremendous opportunity to connect with our teenagers during what can be turbulent years
in any parent-child relationship.
Take texting. “When I see parents who are willing to connect with their kids in this way, those
relationships tend to go much more smoothly,” Duffy says. “Even if it’s just, ‘I love you,’ or, ‘Hey how is
your day going?’ it’s a great touchstone from parent to child.”
And, while of course, we need to keep talking offline, sometimes a simple, “I luv u 2,” from your
teenager speaks volumes.