Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Category: Technology (page 1 of 3)

Should teenagers have a technology curfew?

teenager on cellphone


Oh the joys of being a parent in the digital age!

When we were teens, our parents only had to worry about whether to implement a curfew for us to arrive home from nights out with friends. Now,  as parents of teens,  there is a debate over whether to give a “technology curfew.”  Should you force your teenager to power down electronics at a certain time of night?

At the gym this morning, a few moms got to talking about our weekends. One mom confessed she spent the whole weekend battling with her son over how much he plays Xbox. At 1:30 in the morning, she insisted he get off Xbox and go to bed. But he said the phrase most mothers know well. “Okay mom, in a minute.” The mom said finally, her husband used some app on his phone to disable the Xbox. (That sounded really cool to me!)

Of course, her son was mid-game and went crazy. She said he spent the next hour yelling and trying to restore the game. ( I can just picture what that looks like, can you?)

“I don’t mind my son unwinding on the weekends, but when he stays up late, he ‘s grumpy the next day or wants to sleep to noon and half the weekend is gone,” the mom said.

Another mom who was part of the conversation said her 13-year-old daughter was up at 1:30 a.m. over the weekend  on the House Party app on her phone, talking to a bunch of friends. This mother also had battled with her daughter about powering down and going to bed.

I can relate to these moms. Sometimes late at night, I think my son is sleeping and I hear noise. “What the heck is going on? “I ask myself.  When I go into his room, I find him watching videos on his Instagram feed and cracking up.  “Go to bed,” I say, and what do you think the response is?   “In a minute mom.”

Sure, our kids need chill time, and since they find electronics their entertainment, I’m all for letting them use their phones for video games or to join a “House Party.” I get that their social lives today revolve around electronics.

Still, I understand the frustrations of these gym moms. I have gone to bed many times with a hoard of boys gathered around the TV in the playroom screaming at the characters on the screen in their video game.  And yes, I have contemplated implementing an electronics curfew.

According to The Seattle Times,  our teenagers may need our help powering down. Self-control is not fully developed in teen brains, so it can be hard for teenagers to voluntarily turn off a video game or  close out of Instagram, the article said. One expert said giving teenagers smartphones without any restrictions is like offering them an unlimited supply of Häagen Dazs ice cream and telling them not to eat too much.

A typical “technology curfew”  requires teens to put on their phones on chargers in their parents’ rooms or kitchens at 9 or 10 p.m. to prevent them from losing sleep to  late night text conversations or videos.

So, if any of you have tried a technology curfew, how did it work out? What do you think is a reasonable time for electronics to be shut down, and does it differ on weeknights and weekends?

Social Media: Deathtrap for teens?

I recently reviewed a book  called The Boss of Me…is Me and was impressed, horrified, scared out of my wits and grateful  to the authors all at the same time.  The authors  have written an eye-opening book about  how social media can  lure teens into some scary and awful life-altering situations. They  give some  edgy scenarios as real-life examples.  One of the most shocking was about a young teen who had befriended an 18-year-old on Facebook, slipped unnoticed from her home to meet him, and walked into her death trap. As I was reading the book, all I kept thinking was how I could so see this happening.

The  book is filled with tips and intended to  empower teens with the life skills they need to be the boss of their own thoughts, attitudes and actions.    The authors address a variety of relevant issues including suicide, shoplifting, child molestation and runaways.   The book is designed to equip teens to think and act quickly to avoid going down a path that ends in death, prison and suicide. It  basically helps prevent teens from becoming  a victim and  a statistic. As a mom of two teens, these scenarios scare the heck out of me and infuriate me at the same time! I am still shaking my head that these threats to our teens are  really happening in our society, but I shouldn’t be.

I like that this guidebook helps teach teens that there is always a way out of these awful situations they get themselves into, often because of their social media activities. The guidebook is in a notebook form so teens can write in it and basically have a lifetime of references when completed! The notebook does not come in a digital format because the authors wanted to ensure parental supervision however, the guidebook is in digital format. The guidebook empowers parents to facilitate and engage in conversations with their teen and that’s what is most important!  Without the parents being a facilitator, your teen wouldn’t learn or grasp the true meaning and value of the message(s) the authors are trying to convey.

Parents, because you haven’t physically seen or been exposed to this DOES NOT MEAN it’s not happening or could not happen to you and your kids. Your child could be a victim!  No one is immune. Educate, be aware and talk to you kids. Better yet,  BUY them this book so they can learn first hand about the crimes that are happening to teens.

As a parent, I encourage you to  have them read it! Get the electronic version since you know teens prefer technology to actual books. I hope this books builds awareness but most importantly, saves lives.

Here is a link if you wish to purchase The Boss of Me…is ME ! It is also available at www.cablepublishing.com, Amazon, and all major bookstores. (25% of all proceeds will be donated to The Youth Connection in Detroit, MI.)

By the way, the authors’ backgrounds are impressive:  June Werdlow Rogers  is a retired federal agent with a PhD in criminology,  Rayfield Rogers Jr  is a retired district chief of security for a school district in Michigan,  Grenae´ Dudley PhD is CEO of a youth center.

Parents if you have encountered scary scenarios with your teen as a result of social media, or know someone who can relate, please share your stories.

When an Instagram post makes your teen feel excluded




The morning after Halloween, my friend’s daughter woke up and checked Instagram (part of most teens morning routine).   She saw in a post that three of her friends had gone trick-or-treating together and didn’t invite her — and freaked.  She told her mother that her feelings were hurt.

As a parent of a teen girl, I could SO relate!

Being excluded from social events has always been rough on kids. For decades, groups of friends have been getting together, inviting this one or that one, and someone inevitably gets left out.  But tweens and teens today are much more likely to find out about what they are missing because EVERYTHING is posted online in real time.


A few years ago, I went through a similar experience with my daughter. She found out from a Facebook post that some of her good friends had gone to the beach and she wasn’t included.  She was sad and disappointed that she was left out.  As a parent, it was upsetting to me, too.

Unfortunately,  during their teens years, our kids are struggling with confidence and self esteem and friendships and relationships. Being excluded from one event can easily seem like a BIG deal.

I feel like most kids aren’t posting with the intent to make others feel bad. They’re just trying to be cool or share pics of themselves having fun.

When my daughter experienced this type of exclusion, I told her:  “You’re just not going to be included in every get together and you have to be okay with that.”  I also told her she may be the one who accidentally excludes a friend one day and she needs to be careful about what she posts and mindful of how it could hurt someone’s feelings.

My teenage son says handles it differently when he sees on Instagram that he has been left out when friends get together: “If I really want to hang out with them, I ask them if I can hang out with them next time, or I take the initiative to be the one to make the plans.”

Of course, there’s a big difference between posting group pics or party photos in which someone is excluded by accident — and posting the photos on purpose to taunt someone.  That’s where some parental intervention may need to come in.

We all know that teens aren’t going to stop sharing their “hanging out with my friends” pics any time soon. But encouraging your teen to think about the potential for who may see the pictures before posting can go a long way toward avoiding hurt feelings.

Has this happened to your teen? How as a parent did you handle it?



Why teens don’t want the new iPhone 7




So, here comes the new iPhone and the reaction is lukewarm  with teens.

Usually, the announcement of a new iPhone creates a stir in the morning carpool. Not this time.

Yesterday, I had a car full of teen boys and I asked them who is going to get the new iPhone. No response. ( They were too busy looking at the latest videos on their phones  to hear an adult voice).

Still, I kept prodding. Finally, one looked up. Then another. The reason for their lack of enthusiasm, they explained, is the headphone situation.  They told me the lack of a headphone jack will cut them off from access to their music, which is a HUGE part of their lives. (I’m still trying to prevent my son from listening to dirty rap music, not an easy task!) They also wondered why the new wireless headphones didn’t have the phone built right into them. (That’s coming next, I assured them) So, bottom line is that they aren’t going to beg their parent for the phone.

Meanwhile, one 17-year-old girl told MediaPost that her dream device would be an iPhone 7 with a headphone jack. (Maybe Apple should have spoken with some teens before it went wireless!)  MediaPost says the teens it spoke to noted how they can’t listen in the car anymore, can’t charge their phones while listening, and they can’t use their favorite headphones with the device.

Did Apple make a mistake with the coveted teen crowd? We’ll have to wait a few months to find out.  What does your teen think about they new iPhone and its wireless headphones? If the begging hasn’t started, that’s surely as sign.


Help! My teenage son won’t get off the computer!

boy on computerSummer is here! The sun, the heat, the bbq’s, the beach,  the fun vacation time,  and for parents with teenage sons.. so is the all day video game playing and computer time!

I have to admit my 14-year-old son LOVES his online video gaming and spending time on the computer. He is literally on it for hours and hours! My biggest challenge with him is his screen time and trying to get him OUT OF HIS ROOM! I make deals with him in which he has to do the following:

  1. Read at least one chapter in his summer reading book a day
  2. Ride his bike/Go outside
  3. Visit his Nanny (great-grandmother)
  4. Spend time with his family
  5. Do his daily summer online virtual school homework for high school Spanish
  6.  Do an activity with friends

If he doesn’t do any of the above, his computer time gets reduced.

Let’s just say it’s a work in progress. He is only doing TWO of the items above so far so I have been reducing his computer. I do have to get on him to make sure meets the other items on the list. It’s not easy. To get his attention to do anything but play on the computer is a bit of a struggle.  Every day I make it a point to enter his room,  talk to him  and ask him how his day was spent. I also give him a hug and make sure he read and went outside.

I know it’s the summer and kids should do what they want, but I also believe teenage boys need to get out of their rooms!

This is a HUGE challenge for me so I am very open to any suggestions  you may have.

I have to say he has gone with his dad to the movies, he is spending the weekend at his grandmother’s and I am taking him to visit my cousin who will take him fishing.  We are trying but it’s not easy to engage a teenage boy!

Look forward to hearing your ideas and advice.


Are group chats the new digital cliques?

A few months ago, my son Garret, a high school freshman, got a new iPhone. He set it up right away and joined a few groups chats. By the next morning, he had 400 text messages. The teens in the groups he joined had been texting all night!

If your teen has a cell, chances are high that he or she participates in group chats. Group chats are where teens are dishing about everything happening in their teenage lives.  With group chats, regardless of who starts the conversation, everyone  in the group can chime in instantaneously. My son explained to me that weekend plans are made in group chats. Homework is discussed. The latest fashion trends or social events are talked about.

Lately I want to ban my son from group chats. One day last week, I looked over his shoulder and I noticed that some of the girls in one of his group chats were saying mean things about someone’s unibrow. “What’s that about?” I asked. “Oh, some of the girls are roasting on my friend,” my son explained.  That’s when I realized that sometimes group chats get downright mean. That chit chat in the hallway about the ugly dress some girl wore to school, or gossip about the way so and so was flirting with so and so now gets typed and disseminated among a group of kids with a touch of the enter key.  “Sometimes, even if you didn’t say something mean, you feel guilty just because you’re in the group,” my son admitted to me.

On top of that,  sometimes, someone is intentionally left out of a group chat —  or taken out of the group without their okay. It’s that exclusion we all endured in high school years ago, but today, it’s digital. Yes, cliques have gone electronic!

Even if you’re in a group and no longer want to be, the challenge for teens  is that when you want to get out of a group chat, it’s difficult because there’s always the chance you will “look like a jerk” if you leave.

I could spend all day and night trying to monitor what is being said  in group chats, but there is no way I could keep up. These teens are WAY too prolific and they are fickle about where they hold their group chats. My son recently showed me how the chats have moved from text messages to Instagram group messages.

On a rainy day last week, my son’s phone was pinging nonstop with incoming messages from group chats.  I nudged him to participate with caution.   I reminded him that a group text (and anything shared online) can be captured by a simple screenshot and shared outside of that group.  “A digital conversation is never “secret” or “private”,  I reminded him.  “And, a misinterpreted conversation easily can lead to hurt feelings.”  He nodded, and then went right back to looking at his phone screen.

I know banning my son from group chats is a losing proposition. But it sure is tough to parent when a majority of our teens’ communication is a 24/7 digital stream!




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):


Technology is wrecking sleep for our teens



Does it ever get really quiet in your house, you think your teen is asleep. But noooooo.

It turns out your kid has his cellphone with him in bed and he’s watching his Instagram feed or a funny new video on Vine.

As a mom, it’s so annoying!

But now, this mom has some ammunition to use against her son.

A new study found teens who bury their faces for hours in electronic screens tend to suffer bad nights of sleep. Now, as I blow into the room aghast that my son is still awake and playing on his phone I can blurt out: “Do you want to have a bad’s night sleep?”

“There are indications that today’s teenagers sleep less than previous generations,” said Mari Hysing, co-author and a psychologist at Uni Research Health in Norway told Time Magazine. “There are some aspects of electronic devices that may give an additional arousal; the [screen] light may impact sleep hormone production, and also the social communication aspect” may stir adolescents to keep chatting deep into the night.

Experts say ideally, the last hour before bed should be free of electronic devices and that use of any device in the hour before bedtime was linked to a heightened risk of taking longer than 60 minutes to get to sleep. (I’m wonder if the researcher also has a sneaky teen trying to text under the covers!)

Some of the key findings of the study:

  • If a teen’s total, daytime screen time surpassed four hours, that was associated with a 49 percent higher risk of taking longer than one hour to fall asleep.
  • Total screen viewing that exceeded two hours after school was “strongly linked” to both a longer period of tossing and turning before dreams finally came—and with shorter, nightly sleep duration.
  • Teens who used two to three devices each day were more likely to sleep for less than five hours when compared to those used just one gadget.

Here’s another eye-opener: On Monday, the National Sleep Foundation, recommended that teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 get eight to 10 hours of restorative sleep each night — a full hour longer than the group had previously suggested.

I don’t need research to tell me teens need more sleep.  In my house,  waking up a teenager is a miserable job.

So, what do you think about getting your kid to disconnect from his/her smartphone or laptop an hour before bedtime?  Doable or impossible?

World’s Fastest Texter is….a teen of course!

I’m out with my son and we’re stopped at a red light. I’m trying to send a text message to a friend when I hear, “Oh my god mom. You text soooo slow.”

“What? I think I’m pretty fast!” I tell him.

Of course, now the light turns green and I hand the phone over to my son to finish the  text for me. In two seconds, he zips off the rest of the text.

Okay. I’m no match for a teen texter. What is it about their finger-brain coordination that has given them the edge?  They can type under tables or desks without even looking at the screen. They can text with their phones in their pockets. They can text regardless of the obstacles — angry teachers, pesky parents or even a few beers in.

So, it should be no surprise that the World’s Fastest Texter is a 17-year old Brazilian teenager who competed for the title in New York City and typed a 26-word message perfectly in just 18.19 seconds, beating the previous champion’s record of 18.44 seconds.

CNET reports that to become the Guinness World Record holder for texting, Marcel Fernandes Filho, had to text the following sentences and get both the spelling and punctuation right: “The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.”

Personally, I’m just surprised the kid knew how to spell and use punctuation. That’s a feat in itself.

Filho broke the record on a Samsung Galaxy S4 with the Fleksy keyboard application installed. That the same phone my son owns. Maybe I won’t be so annoyed next time I find him texting under the dinner table. I guess he’s just in training to break the world record!


Photo of Marcel Fernandes Filho, courtesy of Fleksy

What’s up with teen obsession with selfies?

Have you noticed that if you spend a day with teens, particularly girls, numerous selfies will be taken? You will be driving along minding your own business when a flash goes off in the back seat . You will be startled, but then you will remember you are transporting a teen or multiple teens so that streak of light isn’t a siren or a UFO — it’s merely another selfie.

Yes, we are raising the #selfie generation. Our kids may be future doctors or lawyers or even nuclear scientists but only if they’re not too busy posting selfies  on Instagram to worry about a career.

And, now, the selfie has made headlines for its appearance at college graduation. The University of South Florida has forbid graduates to take selfies on stage during graduation. USF notified graduating students and placed an ad in the student newspaper this week asking them to refrain from taking selfies with USF president Judy Genshaft when crossing the stage for their diplomas. The reason, they claim, is that it will slow down the graduation ceremony. But can the selfie generation really refrain from such a prime selfie opportunity?

The selfie craze has affected high school graduation, too. My daughter recently informed me that graduates at her high school no longer want the prestige of sitting on the stage during graduation. Usually, a stage seat means you’re highly ranked in the class. But sitting on the stage now means you can’t use your cell phones during the ceremony — and that means no “here I am waiting for my turn selfies.” Even worse, it means no texting for a few hours. What American teen could survive that?

As selfies document every accomplishment in my teens’ lives, I’ve been wondering…Are kids today more self-absorbed than we were at their age?

It seems like vanity has become an obnoxious online preoccupation for teens reinforced by a burning need for “likes.”  What’s amazing to me is that very few poses are off limits for selfie-taking teens. One mom I know says the sharing of self-portraits on social networking has become such an issue in her house that that she has banned bathing suit selfies.

How many of you have witnessed a teen trying repeatedly to take the perfect selfie? It can involve posing and re-posing so many times that you find yourself saying “enough already!”

So, for  parents like me who are reeling from selfie obsession,  it’s up to us to shape the future of the habit. Tell you’re kid her or she is lovable and cool and doesn’t need a selfie to prove it. You might have to do it between camera clicks.




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