Here are my notes from Episode 013: How To Protect My Kids From The Mobile Madness
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Have you ever been inside a youth detention center? I have. Often. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with eight high school students in a youth detention center. We talked about their lives, their dreams, and their regrets. These kids looked AND sounded as though they had it all together – – each of them talked about the future and goals they had set – – it truly was a pleasant experience for me. It was also sad for me to know that these students were missing out on so much. They can’t attend a Friday night football with their friends. They can’t go to the mall, the movies or really anywhere. They have lost mostly all their privileges, rights and freedom.
And, not one of these teens would graduate with their friends. Instead, they would graduate in a small room on the campus of a regional youth detention center.
Why? All eight were there for the same reason: sexting.
Sexting is defined as “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone.”Many Gen Zs (this generation of teens) I meet are sexting now or have in the past. Even if your kids aren’t, they probably know someone who is.
It can be easy to believe there isn’t much you can do to influence the direction of your child’s use of mobile devices. Don’t believe the lie. Of course, there are GREAT benefits to mobile devices—there are just as many dangers. We as parents need to understand how to navigate the world our kids can access on their phones.
Many, many Gen Zs build a lifestyle around their mobile devices and social media. And, most know how to keep their parents in the dark about what they’re doing. Intimidation CAN NOT be a part of your story here. There is much you can do to help your child hold their own against, what I call, the mobile mania. And, I’m going to help you get a plan for your family.
No one remains a teenager forever. That’s so good to know. I don’t think I could even fit into those parachute pants anymore…come on…you had a pair too!
Eventually, every high school student has to enter the adult world. Each of them will compete against other candidates for scholarships, jobs, promotions, graduate school, internships, advanced training, and other opportunities. In all these areas and many others, your teen’s digital lifestyle—including attitude, mind-set, habits, biases, and, of course images and videos—will most likely all be on display when being considered or interviewed by a school and or an employer.
Potentially, this can come back to haunt them later on. We need to help our kids face the hard facts now, in time to head potential major problems off at the pass.
I have made a list of everything I can think of that you need to be aware of, and to be thinking about as it relates to your son or daughter’s digital life. This isn’t an exhaustive list. But, let me warn you – – it’s a list that needs your attention! Because a lot is riding on you and your kids getting this right!
A digital footprint is the trail you leave behind when you do anything online. Every time you access social media, open your browser, upload and edit your photo galleries, manage subscriptions, input credit card information, upload videos, watch a video on YouTube, and do pretty much anything else on the internet, you leave a trace. Most students don’t give it a second thought when they add their name (and often their photo) to apps, games, or websites, but they need to be fully aware that they are doing more than just surfing – they’re leaving a footprint that others can follow.
If your child hopes to attend college or one day land that dream-job, they need to be reminded of the digital trail that is there – – it’s there for the dean of admissions to see; it’s there for the hiring manager to see; and it’s there for friends, a future spouse and his or her family to see.
I know you know this, but parent you need to:
What you post, really says the most can about your character. If your son or daughter isn’t careful, he or she might find this out the hard way.
Your Child, Especially If You Have a Teen, Is the Target Market.
Corporations work hard to lure consumers, especially young consumers, to their products. When your teen makes a purchase or conducts a search using a mobile device, advertisers create a link between your child and a product or service he or she might have an interest in. Data harvesting, retargeting, cookie sharing—terms that didn’t even exist just a few years ago—are standard practices in the digital-marketing era. Every time your son or daughter chats, tweets, posts, or searches things online, he or she most likely is inputting data that is documented, recorded, and used for selling products. Where is all that information going? That’s a really. good question.
They Know Where Your Teen Is
Unless you disable the feature, many smartphone apps track your child’s location. This is potentially an invasion of privacy, and it frequently happens without people knowing it. Apps that use location data can be helpful, such as for navigation and checking the weather. But if your son or daughter allows any app to track his or her location, he or she also may be allowing that app to sell the location data. Some of the world’s most popular apps do not work without being able to track the user’s location. Many are loaded with covert marketing—basically, conversations between brands and users. It’s important to know which apps are following your child. It is also critical to know how to deactivate the apps.
You can google a search for: deactivate location tracking on my device and see which apps are tracking your kids and get the specifics on how to deactivate this feature. I encourage you to do this!
It’s All Out There (and I Do Mean All)
Pornography sites are the most visited sites on the internet.
Every second, 28,258 users watch porn via their phones or computers.
Pornhub, the top online porn site, registers on average 2.1 million views every hour.
One out of every five mobile searches seeks out pornography.
If you have a son or daughter struggling with porn, you can’t dance around the issue or just assume they’ll grow out of it. They won’t! You have to take action immediately!
I’ve written a chapter specifically on pornography in 3 of my books: Watch This for teen boys, The Graduate Handbook for high school graduates, AND I’ve detailed everything you need to know about this darkness, specifically how porn-proof your home and protect your kids from this addictive industry in my book for parents: The Fight Of Your Life. You can get any of my 7 books anywhere books are sold or at jeffreydean.com.
I want to shift focus to social apps. You know about these. And, you too probably know that there are tons of apps which allow users to subscribe and become your child’s “friend.”
And the “friends of friends” feature invites your child to communicate within a limited community or with the world at large. While such apps can increase your teen’s circle of friends, they also can increase exposure to people with less-than-honorable intentions. It is critical that you establish healthy guidelines when it comes to your child’s use of apps and their participation in the online social scene.
Parameters are critical here. And, there are really countless parameters I can hit on. Of course,
Know user logins for all your child’s accounts.
I have a password manager app on all my devices. I use it to store Bailey and Brynnan’s user logins and passwords for the girls and for Amy and myself as well. If you aren’t using a similar app, make sure you keep all your families login information in a secure place. Knowing the user logins allows you to log in to your child’s accounts and monitor his or her social media presence.
Know their friends.
You know who your child spends time with at school. You also should know who he or she spends time with online. One of the rules you need to establish is that you have full access to your kid’s social-media connections.
Monitor their pics and streaks.
Know what images they are posting. This is why it’s important for you to use all the apps they use and be their social media friends on EVERY app they use.
Remind them: Once you hit send, there is no end.
The things your son or daughter posts in apps, websites, and streaks can never be erased. They always will remain searchable.
Just as you have limits on TV time and video games, you need to set parameters when it comes to your child’s mobile-device use. Establish guidelines for phone use in the bedroom (for example, only after homework is complete). And, of course, the most important rule to enforce is that cell phones should never be used while driving.
School rules rule.
Amy and I expect our daughters to never walk out of school looking at their phones. We want them to see other people, communicate with others, and otherwise not be distracted. We also demand they follow the mobile-device rules their teachers establish in the classroom and on campus.
Your child learns by watching you.
If you are updating your social media accounts or tweeting every opportunity you get, you are setting a usage precedent that your teen will likely follow.
A friend told me, “My daughter spends more time on the phone than she does talking to us.” Teens aren’t the only ones who give in to addictive cell phone behavior. I have a number of adult friends who are way too consumed with their devices. But teens, to a greater degree than adults, have learned to communicate quite well using their thumbs. It is up to you to establish rules and model the lifestyle you want your teen to adopt.
If your teen (or any child in your family, regardless of age) spends time online, it is critical that you establish healthy online habits for your family. Spell out your expectations and then live by them. Such expectations are a crucial part of your attempt to safeguard your their mobile and online life. But you can’t leave it at this.
Beware of the New Social Flirt!
Think about the risky things you did as a teen. Now think about sexting in the same context. Many teens consider sexting a normal part of teen culture. Teens do it to flirt, out of rebellion or sexual curiosity, in an attempt to gain a sense of significance, in the pursuit of love, or due to peer pressure.
If you won’t talk to your teen about the dangers of sexting, who will? Your teen needs to know that the sexting laws in most parts of the country define this widespread teenage practice as a crime. If you sent it, you committed a crime. If you received it and didn’t immediately delete it, you, too, committed a crime. As you discuss this critical issue with your teen, ask questions such as these:
If someone pressures you to send a sext, how will you respond?
Regardless of the legal ramifications, how can sexting damage your spiritual life?
If you know someone who has sent a sext, why do you believe he or she did so?
If you send a sext and the relationship ends, how will you feel about those pics still being out there?
Be willing to go there. Period!
Consider Using A Keylogger
Keylogger software logs every key pressed on the keyboard of your mobile device or computer. It can capture messages, passwords, downloads, images, and videos sent. Your child can accidentally stumble onto something he or she was not looking for, and keylogger software can help you protect your child by notifying you that they have wandered into dangerous territory. Of course, this may not prevent them from viewing this content in this specific moment. However, after receiving such notification, such knowledge can provide for a candid conversation with them about what to do if and when such a situation arises again. Keylogger softwares don’t necessarily prevent such moments, but they can kick-start conversations between you and your kids to be prepared for the next time! However, it also invites you into your child’s private conversations. So, I need to say this too that you should weigh the pros and cons before using a keylogger software.
Keyloggers collect keyboard and mobile device data such as
~ phone location
~ amount of time someone spends on thier computer
~ most frequently visited apps and websites
~ a record of every keystroke
~ most-used contacts on their phone
~ a log of all calls, texts, chats, emails, and Skype
One feature I love about Keyloggers: they include red-flag notifications. You can activate these in the admin setup section and receive notifications for words, phone numbers, and websites you deem potentially dangerous. If you flag words such as suicide, school shootings, and porn, you will receive a notification immediately if these words are used on the logged device. The red flag can be important to alert you to potentially harmful content, communication your child might be having with someone he or she should not be talking to, or evidence they might be searching for ways to harm themselves or others.
Check Search History
After attending one of our parenting events, a father told me he went home to check his teen’s recent online activity. On the home computer he found there was no search history available. “I knew immediately that someone was trying to hide something,” he said, “so we had a family meeting.”
Remember, a computer’s browser history can be easily erased. If you find that the history for your son’s or daughter’s mobile device or computer has been cleaned out, it’s probably time for a family conversation. Let them know that you will consistently check-up on their online life. This does not make you a nag or intrusive parent; it makes you a good parent.
I also want to say that it’s always important to remind your kids that using a mobile device or a laptop is a privilege that can be taken away. Amy and I regularly remind the girls of exactly this.
Clearly and consistently communicate your expectations to your kids for their digital and online lives. Set boundaries. Stick to them, and take sabbaticals from time to time.
This is exactly what our family is doing this summer. We have taken a “Summer Socials Sabbatical” from Snapchat. And, I have to tell you, it’s been super for our family. We launched the sabbatical 3 weeks ago…I actually shot a video and posted this to my Facebook Page challenging other families to join us. You can watch the video here!
I’m telling you, it could make all the difference this summer in your family dynamic if your son or daughter is less engaged with their device and more engaged with your family.
There is an enemy who wants you to believe that this episode isn’t for you. I have to remind you otherwise. So, help point your family back to Scripture here.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16
Suggest that each family member memorizes this verse. This scripture can be a powerful tool for us all when it comes to navigating the digital world. We all need the reminder to live in a way that honors God, especially when it comes to cell phone use.
Because, here’ the truth…
The same is true for everyone of our family members. Everything, I, you, and our kids tweet, post, searches, and sends lets the world know who we for. Work to instill in your family a mobile-mature lifestyle that proclaims, “Above all, I am a follower of Christ.”
I want to also remind you that if you haven’t received my gift for you: The Family Strong Blueprint, you can get your copy today by texting the word “family” to the number 345345.
The Family Strong Blueprint is your personal guide to helping you build a strong family. It’s a digital toolbox packed with tips and tools to help up you construct a plan to become an even stronger family. And, the best part of all – it’s free!
Again, simply text the word “family” to the number 345345 and get The Family Strong Blueprint.
Jeffrey Dean is a family influencer, author, and counselor whose mission is to help build strong families. For information about having Jeffrey speak in your community, contact our office.