Raising Teens

a site for parents grappling with sanity

Cell phones and homework? The struggles of a parent of a teen

A few days ago, I walked into the room to see my son at his desk staring at his cell phone.  I yelled at him to put it down and get his homework done. But,  he insisted he was doing his homework. “Mom, I’m looking up my assignment,” he told me.

Lately, I’ve noticed a big difference in the way my youngest child Garret, a high school freshman, uses his phone and the way his older siblings used their phones .  Garret uses his phone for everything he needs to do his homework. He uses it to look up word definitions, check his grades, calculate math problems and research science terms. Of course, in between, he’s also liking pictures on Instagram and pulling up videos on Vine.

As a parent, I’m struggling with maintaining control over how much connectivity is too much, particularly when my teen is a digital native who considers a paperback dictionary “ridiculous” and “unnecessary”.

A big problem is that homework in my house seems to drag on for hours and I find myself nagging Garret to hurry up so he can get to sports practice on time or get to bed at a decent hour.  While I realize that teachers pile on the homework, I’m sure that some of the reason it drags on for hours is because of the distraction of electronics.

In a new study by Common Sense Media, half of the teenagers said they watch TV or use social media either “a lot” or “sometimes” while doing homework, and 76 percent said they listen to music while working.  Half of the teens also said that listening to music actually helps their work, while only 6 percent said they thought it hurt.

“As a parent and educator, there’s clearly more work to be done around the issue of multi-tasking,” said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, an organization that monitors youthful media use and gives recommendations to parents told NBC News. “Nearly two-thirds of teens today tell us they don’t think watching TV or texting while doing homework makes any difference to their ability to study and learn, even though there’s more and more research to the contrary.”

My friend Stefani is just as frustrated as I am. She took her son’s cell phone away from him a few days ago. She explained to me that he’s a kid who is easily distracted and whose grades have been slipping. “I blame that darn phone,” she said.

The phone is just one culprit in our teens’ addiction to devices.  New research has found that teens are spending a reported nine hours a day on media consumption, with tweens trailing not too far behind, dedicating an estimated six hours to their smartphones or tablets.

Steyer says that that statistic  is sad because it “shows you that kids spend more time with media and technology than they do with their parents, time in school or any other thing.”

While it is sad, it also is reality.

Until now, I’ve been okay with letting my son use his phone while doing homework. He is doing well in school. But this survey has me wondering if I am making a mistake. Maybe I should make Garret put his phone in the desk drawer until his homework is finished. What do you think…should cell phones be part of the homework routine —  or banned until it’s completed?

Should teens have part time jobs?

teen working

(Editor’s note: Today our guest blogger is Liz Greene)

As a parent,  you make decisions for your kids based on nothing more than your gut feeling and a good dose of common sense.

However, once they hit those freewheeling teenage years, things start to change. Suddenly, they’re making a lot more decisions for themselves, and you’re just holding on, hoping they’ll accept your guidance. One of the biggest choices teenagers face is whether or not to get a part-time job.

As a teen, I had a part-time job as a server in a retirement home. At the time, I loathed my boss and the rules he made.  Now, years later, I realize how much I gained from those months in the service industry.  I learned to cooperate in a work environment with people I didn’t necessarily get along with and I learned how to  figure out a way to hold washed plates so I didn’t get burned. Most of all, I learned with any job you can always find a silver lining; mine being the relationships I built with the senior residents.

I feel like every teen can benefit from getting real life work skills. But before you give your teen the green light, take these pros and cons into consideration.

The Benefits

Work skills serve teens well in college and prepare them for careers in adulthood. Time management, problem solving, communication, working under pressure — these are all soft skills that look fantastic on a resume or college application and are great to get at a young age. Furthermore, the right job may provide networking possibilities that set your teen on the path to a lifetime career. Working teens meet new people and have new experiences – creating positive memories that last a lifetime.

Earning money enables teenagers to learn how to effectively manage finances. Even if they’re only using their paychecks to bankroll their own expenses, they learn to budget between clothes, entertainment, and bills. These new-found skills instill confidence, a sense of responsibility, and independence.

The Drawbacks

Can your teen handle it? Unfortunately, there can also be negative consequences to teen employment, such as reduced time for homework, less school involvement, and increased stress.

Having a job can also negatively affect a student’s grades. Students who work more than 20 hours a week have lower grade point averages than students who work fewer hours per week. For those same teens, research shows that substance abuse is higher – partly because older coworkers can lead them astray.

How Parents Can Help

Sit down with your child before they apply for employment and discuss the pros, cons, and responsibilities of having a job. Come to an agreement on how your teen will use his income, whether it be helping out with family finances, saving for college, or for fun. This will help to avoid future conflicts about money.

Teach your teen how to manage demands made on his time. This is a necessary skill that will serve him well in adulthood. The teenage years are a good time to learn to use time and resources wisely.

The truth is, a part-time job can be a wonderful experience for teenagers – as long as it’s paired with the right parental guidance. It’s not easy to let your kids loose into the world of employment, but the benefits are numerous. It would be a shame not to let them get that leg up into the world of adulthood.

Liz Greene is a writer and former preschool teacher from Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene



College Bound or Home Bound?

As my daughter applys to colleges and prepares to start the next chapter of her life, I asked her if she would consider going to college locally and staying home. Well, I might as well have cut all her hair off and taken her phone from her because that was the reaction I got. How could I even consider that for her she wanted to know?

I’m sorry,  was that an insult? College is college whether it’s  local or away.  Not to Olivia.college

To her being away at a college – whether it be a big University or small community college – is just that, “AWAY”.  It’s her passage to adulthood. She wants to feel she is starting a new chapter somewhere new, not where she went to high school and while  living at home.

I went to school locally for a couple of years and stayed home, but she and I are different  people. I get that. She knows she won’t feel like she’s growing up living at home. She says she won’t feel like she’s in college, just back in high school.

As silly as that may sound to you and I, to her it’s her reality. It is how she feels and I cant fault her for that. I need to support her in any way that helps her do well in college, whether it be here or away.

In the end, we all have goals and dreams and we set paths to get us there.  Many people may not agree with the path we take to achieve our goals, but, as I always tell Olivia,  it is not where you start that counts, it is where  you end that matters.  People may not understand your choices and they don’t have to. I know I don’t sometimes. But people have to understand that they are your choices.

So, as Olivia prepares for college life, I know she will flourish and thrive being away. Her wings will spread and she will soar.  She is college bound but  that’s okay. untitled

because I know when she wants or needs her mom or dad we will always be here.. home bound.

Why you shouldn’t care about your teen’s messy bedroom

messy bedroom


When I pictured my children in college, I envisioned young people wearing their school t-shirts surrounded by new friends and roaming a campus. What I didn’t picture was the empty bedrooms they would leave behind.

For me, that has been one of the most difficult parts of the next stage of life. My daughter, and now my son are living their lives, enjoying college, many miles from home. And, here I am walking past their empty bedrooms feeling a pang of loneliness every time I look in. I have had other parents tell me they shut their children’s bedroom door when they leave home.  I can’t bring myself to do that because part of me wants to see their belongings and picture them still in their rooms.

In high school, my son and daughter turned into giant slobs. I am not a neat freak by any means, but I couldn’t stand the overwhelming mess – every drawer open, empty water bottles on their dressers, stuff all over. I nagged them regularly to pick dirty clothes up off the floor and make their beds. I even hung a sign on the garage door stating that no one leaves the house without their beds made. (It didn’t work!) My teens seemed baffled by my need for cleanliness. One weekend I stood at the door of their bedrooms refusing to let them go out until the tidiness met my approval.

Now, the bedrooms are clean and exactly in the pristine condition I insisted they be in when they left home. That’s definitely the upside. But there are days when I would trade the clean room for my kids’ presence. Yes, I admit, I long to see a dirty sock on the floor.

For all you parents frustrated when your teen’s room looks like a disaster zone, feel free to insist on cleanliness. But know the day lies ahead when the mess will go away and unfortunately, your teen will too.

Senior year and mom is anxious!

It’s senior year! Woah! I can’t believe Olivia will be graduating next year- class of 2016!

I told her over the summer to please not rush the year. Olivia has a tendency to want hurry things along. Shes always in a rush for things to happen. I told her I will be very anxious this year so telling me  everything that we have to do in the next 12 months will truly put me over the top with anxiety. I told her to please, take it one month a t a time. I can’t handle more than that right now.

She was already telling me we needed to go look at places to live in Tallahassee.  I told her, “Are you serious?  You haven’t even started your senior year and you already have yourself graduated and in college? Slow down! What’s the rush? ” She says she can’t wait to be done with high school. Olivia is in such a hurry to grow up and be on her own.  She said,  “Mom, all the good places will be taken.”  No they won’t. You just want to secure that you are going away.  “Let’s see how your first semester goes and after that, we will start looking,”  I said.  Now the tables are turned and I AM the anxious one and overwhelmed. I think she likes the feeling that I need  her to help me  get through this busy year.

I know she can’t wait to go away to college. BUT, I told her going to college isn’t about going away, it’s about getting an education, about  your future.  I told her, “You mess up, you mess up your future, not mine.” She has to realize she can’t have it both ways. She can’t pull the adult card when she wants and at the same time ask for us to help her when she should be helping herself. Not gonna happen.

I bought her a planner to organize herself and of course bought  myself the same one. I figured together we can get through this year one step at a time and enjoy senior year with her as much as we can, even though she can’t wait for it to be over, rushing it along of course.

So for now, one day at a time and a calendar ready to be filled with deadlines, events and college visits.

Do you have a senior graduating  next year?  Did  you already have a senior  graduate? Any words of advice? All are welcome! Anxious momma here!


Video games are driving me crazy!

boys on xbox

“Get that guy! Nice shot! These phrases along with other yells and screams have been the background noise of my home this summer.

Video games are driving me crazy!

For some reason, when my sons have friends over, video games become the immediate entertainment. I know there is some benefit: it must help with hand eye coordination.  There may even be skill involved. It’s just that there so much noise from the soundtrack of the games and from  kids screaming at the screen that it makes me insane. Then, there’s the arguing about who gets the control next and who had the highest score.

It’s not only the actual playing into the wee hours of the night that’s driving me crazy. It’s the content, too.

Video games have been at the center of conflict between me and my sons this summer. Recently, my 14 year-old-son, Garret, and I had a battle at GameStop. He wanted to buy an M-rated video game and needed my permission. I asked the guy who works there why the game is rated M. He explained it is because of the extreme violence and scantily clad women with  big breasts jiggling committing destructive acts of terror. We left the store without the game!

The next day, I overhead my son plotting with his now 18-year-old brother, Jake, to take him to GameStop. It sent me on a rampage, screaming at my sons and asking why these games need to be so violent and why they need to feature half-naked women .  I have to give it to Jake, he explained it to me in terms I could easily understand. “Mom, their target market is horny 18-year-old boys!”

Action games with big battles are incredibly exciting, but it seems like the video game industry assumes girls don’t play them. There are not many female heroes in games. In a lot of video games, the default character is a guy. If you want to play as a female character, it’s not easy. Often you have to pay. That makes me furious. My boys don’t seem to be bothered by that — at all.

Last year, when I moved my daughter into her college dorm, I noticed the boys across the hall had not unpacked a single item of clothing or even made up their beds. Instead, they were deeply engrossed in playing Xbox. I recognized the  sounds coming from their room: “No way! You’ve got to be kidding me! That’s bullshit!” …. I turned to my daughter and said, “I guess Xbox even follows teens to college!”

Recently, when the sounds of explosions and gunfire from Xbox had give me a giant headache, I told my sons and their friends to go outside and play basketball or good old-fashioned hide and seek. Their response was to continue playing. It seems these all-consuming video games make it difficult to hear a mother’s voice.

Now school starts and we go back to homework and activities, the Xbox will go into hibernation mode. I will miss the lack of routine, but I will not miss the sounds that emanated from my playroom this summer. I realize I can’t fight the video game generation or the superfans the video game developers are targeting, but I can insist that school and homework come first. Most importantly, I have a shot at restoring some peace and quiet at home and I plan to take it. Score one for mom!

Let’s call them “Generation Strike A Pose”

I am on vacation, on top of a volcanic rock, and my daughter has given me her iPhone to take her photo. She is posing in an Instagram-worthy way, but I am realistic enough by now to know I will never be able to capture the pose to her liking.

On the occasions that I have tried to play photographer, my daughter has deleted my subpar attempts and replaced them with a more likeable shot that better captures her pose, usually a pic that another teen or sibling has snapped.

If you have ever browsed your teen’s Instagram feed or followed a teen on your own account, you will know the like-worthy poses my daughter and her peers aim to capture on their smartphone screens — the glamourous girl hand on hip shot, the lips pursed and eyes wide shot or the cool dude holding up two fingers in a  peace sign  shot.

As a mother of teens, I have learned that any location can instantly become a photo shoot. I might be driving along, transporting my  daughter and her friends somewhere when suddenly my backseat becomes a studio. The flash goes off over and over while my teen passengers mug for the camera. Watching them strike a pose, snap, delete, snap again and post, I wonder about the future for a generation that tries so hard to be viewed in a picture perfect way.

I think about the little camera with a disposable flash bulb that I had as teen. I remember how it took weeks to finish off the film, get it developed and either happily slip the glossy  3 x 5  into a photo album or tear it up and lose the paper memory forever. Unlike my teens, I didn’t walk around all the time with my pocket camera, and picture taking wasn’t an everyday  or every hour event. But then again, my friends weren’t glued to their smartphones giving likes to my newest selfie within seconds of posting.

One mother recently wrote on her blog: “I doubt there’s been a day in the past two years when I haven’t argued with my teenage daughter about the amount of time she spends taking selfies and posting them online.” The mom says she can’t understand why her selfie obsessed daughter can’t just smile and instead has to pout provocatively or make the duck face.
When Madonna belted out Strike a pose, Strike a pose.. .Vogue, vogue  it’s as if  she was speaking directly to the selfie generation. So I have to ask, is all the posing and posting harmless, or have we birthed a generation that is preoccupied with being camera ready?

By some miracle, my daughter has deemed my photo of her on the volcanic rock to be Instagrammable. While I gloat over my success, I’m hold firmly to my inclination that picture snapping has taken on way too much importance in our teens’ lives. What are your thoughts on Generation Strike a Pose? Are they engaged in harmless fun, or obsessed with their online appearance?

“Now that I am 18..”

Well, my teenager daughter finally reached a milestone.. she turned 18!

She could not wait for the day she was legally an adult. The first thing she did.. buy a lottery ticket! That was the rite of passage to adulthood. She could go to the counter and ask for a scratch off. Oh, the freedom!

The day after her birthday, her voter’s registration card came in. The joy she felt now that she could vote, and that her opinion mattered to the world was so amazing. It was wonderful seeing the things we take for granted as full-grown adults versus the outlook of new adult entering the world. I have to admit, it was sweet and cute at the same time.

It wasn’t too long after that Olivia began reminding me that “now that I am 18..”, as if the rules changed, as if life would change, as if things would be different now. Did I miss something? Yes, you are correct Olivia, there will be changes. You can now legally vote. You can get arrested as an adult. You can buy a lottery ticket. You don’t need my permission legally for anything.  I need your permission to talk to doctors about your health or your health bills, and the list goes on and on. I didn’t understand the big deal of her wanting to be an adult so fast. I kept telling her, “Olivia, why are you in such a rush to grow up? Enjoy life. Stop and smell the roses.” She didn’t buy it. Maybe someday she will.

I did remind her that even though she was 18 and legally an adult, she was still my daughter and still had to follow the house rules, or she could go live somewhere else. I told her she had to respect the house rules whether she was 8, 18, 28 or 58.  Being an adult is knowing the difference between disrespect and respect and behaving in an appropriate adult, mature manner.

Eighteen is just a number. At 18,  you are legally an adult, but you are still a kid with a lot of growing up to do.  I told Olivia, “you are still my daughter and I will still discipline you no matter how old you are.” You don’t stop being a parent because your child is an adult. You never stop. The worries just get bigger.

The week of her birthday, Olivia decided to watch home videos of herself with her cousin, Amanda, and her brother, Matthew. I loved hearing her laugh out loud at how precocious and vain she was at such a young age. She loved hearing herself talk as a child and the crazy adorable things she would say. I think it was at that moment she realized that being a child wasn’t so bad — no worries, no drama, no responsibilities, just silliness and laughter.

That same week, we went to her annual physical to her pediatrician she has been going to since she was six months old. She told me, “Now that I am 18, I want to go to an adults’ doctor office, not a kids’ one.” I said fine. Well, her pediatrician congratulated her on turning 18 and  told her she could continue to go there until she was 21. Olivia said, “No it’s ok.” The doctor then proceeded to tell her how she looks amazing and takes great care of herself and how she remember when she was a baby and all the times she would come into the office. After the doctor left, Olivia said to me, “Mom, I think I am going to stay here after all. I like this doctor a lot.” I told her that was a smart adult decision.

Having your child turn 18 doesn’t mean the rough teen years are over. It just means the crazy adult ones are coming!

So, I ask all the parents out there, how was it when your teen turned 18? How did they react to becoming legally an adult? How did you react?

The Danger of a Screenshot

My youngest son, Garret, celebrated his 14th birthday last weekend with a pool party. At one point during the party, I noticed all the boys were huddled looked at something on a cell phone. They were laughing and acting suspicious, so I asked what was going on. I got the usual answer “nothing.”

After the party, I asked my son again what the huddling was all about. He told me that one of the girls in his grade had posted a “booty shot” on Instagram. She had deleted the photo from Instagram a minute or two after posting it, but by then, one of the boys had taken a screenshot. The boy then forwarded the photo to all his friends, my son included.

I asked him to let me see it, and when I did, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a picture of a 14-year-old girl on a pool ledge taken from behind —  with her bikini bottom riding up her butt crack. No wonder the boys were mesmerized!

It was at that moment that I realized how the screenshot has changed our teens’ lives. All it takes is an instant to capture an inappropriate photo and blast it out to others. Once a teen posts something (or anyone for that matter) it’s out there. Even Snapchats that disappear after 10 seconds don’t really go away when a screenshot can capture the moment for eternity.

There is no such thing anymore as going back and deleting something off the Internet! That’s so scary to me!

I tried to use this opportunity to teach my son that putting ANYTHING inappropriate on the Internet is a risk. I explained to him the concept of thinking before you post and explained how adults are losing their jobs, their reputations and their families over something they post without thinking first. My son’s argument: “All the girls post booty shots mom. Why are you making a big deal?” (When I Googled teen booty shots, dozens of images came up)

“Maybe they do,” I said. “But that doesn’t mean they are using good judgment.”

I’m just not sure my son or his friends get it. When teens live their lives on social media, desperate for likes, I’m not sure that they fear the screenshot as much as they should.

Still, I haven’t given up trying to get my point across.

Have you had any situations like this? Do you think your teen knows what is inappropriate to post online?

Below is a real example from the Internet (one of the more milder ones):


Why high school graduation is tough for parents



The day you become a parent your life changes. Everyone warns you this will happen and it’s true. It’s emotional in a way that feels odd and exciting at the same time.

Eighteen years later, a parent feel as emotional on graduation day as we do the day our first child came into our life — maybe even more emotional. Regardless of how much we know it is coming, graduation day catches us off guard. Tonight, my oldest son, Jake, will graduate from high school and while he prepares for the pomp and circumstance with excitement, I face it with a strange feeling.

I wonder if other parents feel as I do. Part of it is bewilderment, the feeling that 18 years went by and I can’t account for every day of those years. Part of it is fear, the feeling that I am getting older and entering a new phase in my life as my son is entering one in his and I don’t know how it will play out. Part of it is excitement, the feeling that there is so much opportunity ahead for him, which I have learned from benefit of hindsight. Of course, part of it is pride,  the feeling that I have shaped another human being and guided him to this day of accomplishment.

From having an older daughter, I know this life event is pivotal. Regardless of whether your son or daughter goes to college, high school graduation marks a change in the parent/child relationship. From this day on, you treat your teen differently,  You give him or her a little more independence and engage in conversations on a different level.

As a parent, there are so many adjustments as your children mature into adults and leaves home. It’s not easy but  you come to accept that you may not know where or how they are much of the time. They are out there living their own lives, and as a parent you can only sit back and hope for the best.

As I head into the auditorium tonight, I will look around the room and see the faces of little boys who played dodgeball in my backyard, now young men who shave, and drive, and like my son are leaving home to go make their way in the world.

Somehow, I feel as if watching them graduate will be happening in slow motion. I  honestly can’t see the road ahead for any of us. But as strange as that is, it is also freeing. The responsibility for making sure my son’s homework is done, he gets to his activities on time and he gets to bed at a decent hour is behind me. Tonight my son graduates, and in many ways, so do I. There’s an interesting path ahead for both of us and tonight we are one step closer to taking it.

« Older posts

© 2015 Raising Teens

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑