Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support

The Smartphone, the Teenager, and the Parent = a nightmare.

Smartphones were meant to help us, so why as a parent do they cause so many issues between me and my kids?

According to my children I must be stupid; not that they have said this directly, but they must be thinking it and I have come to this conclusion based upon the following event surrounding, shocking I know, the smartphone.

We are 15 days into the new year and my son thinks that by complaining, slamming doors, taking up permanent residence on the couch, and outright refusing requests to complete simple tasks like bathing that I am going to break down and return his cell phone to him, which he lost the privilege of 10 days ago. As I watch the behavior our exchange plays out like this:

Me: “You do know that I am your mother right?   Son: “Yeah”

Me:  “Now, do you really think all of this behavior is going to make me give you your phone back?”   Son:  “No”

Me:  “Has you acting like this ever resulted in you getting what you wanted from me?”  Son:  “No”

Me:  “So what makes you think it would work now?”   Son: “I don’t know, okay?”  (said with a sneer and malice”)

Me:  “So, why do you continue to do it?”   Son:  “Because I am angry and it makes me feel better.”

Me:  “Well, it doesn’t make me feel better, and honestly it only pisses me off more, and it makes me not want to give you anything you want, and even take your cell phone and smash it on the floor.”   Son:  Blank stare of horror, and the face of decision, does he say something snarky back or not or walk away??????

Now this scenario doesn’t play out too often in my house as I try not to be the person who wants or has to take stuff away, not because I don’t think it works, but because that is what I did all the time before the newer, better, more control version of me arrived. However, it doesn’t mean that I won’t go there if I need to.

I love technology, it is what gets my word out to all of you, but I do think that the smartphone has posed its own issues mostly in the fact that it is portable and has become a fixture on our bodies as much as a hand or foot. I make no bones that I was convinced that technology would make us all stupid, I now know this not to be true. I do however believe that constant access to Youtube, Memes, Snapchat, (aka Snapcrap in my home) diminishes relationships, and will cause all people to isolate. It is not unusual to have either son come home from school and retreat immediately into their bedrooms with their phones and not see them again until dinner.

Asking anything of my children once never results in action, it must be numerous times because they are so engaged and distracted by the phone. It is almost like they are afraid to put it down, because they might miss something, because in the 15 minutes they aren’t on it, some rapper might have died of “natural causes”; some new brand is “dropping” some outrageously priced blue T-shirt, or some jerk on Youtube is blowing bubbles out his ass and it is an absolute immediate must see. I also know that the content they are watching is suitable for all family members as they are desperate to allow me to look over their shoulders and see what they are doing.

With all that in mind, I have been convinced to understand that this is how kids communicate with each other today. However, when I attempt to have numerous conversations with my child expressing my concerns about time spent on the cell phone texting, snapping, viewing, and insta-ing and the isolation it is causing, I get deep sighs and groans. I have gone as far to say, I want you to think about what you can do to reduce use so I do not have to step in. I want my boys to be able to problem solve this situation, I want to give them the tools-but guess what, it hasn’t worked.

So in my last attempt to have a conversation about this, sitting at the dinner table with my son, the cell phone a mere 6 inches from both our hands, I start the conversation and casually pick up the phone to put it out of his arms reach. Can you say, Hello crazy, crazy kid? He reacted by him coming half way out of the seat, raised voice telling me not to touch his phone.

At that instant all was thinking, “Are you shitting me? You are 14, you don’t own anything. Actually, I think I own you.” But instead I calmly state, “the reaction that you just exhibited is why we are having this conversation, and right now the only thing I am going to do is take this phone and put it away, you need a detox”. Needless to say that did not go well, there were some F-bombs dropped, some doors slammed, and if I had told him to breath deeply, he would have held his breath and passed out just to defy me. My last statement on the issue was, “In seven days we will talk about the phone, it doesn’t mean you are getting it back, but we will talk about it.”

Day one and two were horrible. Nasty, nasty, nasty he was. My husband wanted to know if I could withstand it. Very much like what I said to my son, I said to my husband, “You do realize who you are married to right?”

Day three through six were much better. He watched a lot of tv, but at least it was in the common area of the house, he talked to us, and was more engaging. I was thinking this is great, I am awesome, I got this. Yeah no, then there was day seven.

Day seven started with a nasty, “Well are you going to give me back my phone or not.” and then the next exchange began:

Me:  “Now do you think that is the best tone to use with me when you want something from me?”   Son:  “Yeah, what is the problem, you said I could have my phone”

Me: “No, I said in a week we would talk about you getting your phone back.”   Son: “No, you said I could have it back.”  (nasty, angry kid has surfaced again)

Me: “No, I said we will talk about this, and it doesn’t appear that you are ready to talk calmly so we will revisit this in two days.”   Son:  apparently learned something from the first exchange and kept his mouth shut and walked away.  

I have formulated a cleansing and reintroduction plan for the phone, checked it with my husband, and another adult to ensure I wasn’t being completely unreasonable, and was ready to present in two days.

In one day he shows back up in my bedroom to ask very nicely if he could have his phone back today. I asked if he was ready to listen, he believed he was: I then proceed to present the first level of negotiations starting with this statement: ” I suggest that you contain yourself and do not react to anything that I am going to say, no disgust or horror, we will calmly talk about it when I am done reading this: (he remained silent but I could see him trying to hold in the anticipatory rage.)

  • Overall Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 2 hours; Friday and Saturday 3 hours.
  • Snapchat Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 1 hour; Friday and Saturday 2 hours
  • TikTok Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 1 hour; Friday and Saturday 2 hours
  • Games- may keep one game on his phone- all others removed.

At this point, he hadn’t said a word, and I am thinking, I got this, I so got this, I am out of the woods; obviously the thoughts of an overconfident parent. It was the last item that got him, and he flew into a rage, and all I heard was this: “This is so stupid, I can’t believe it”, blah,blah, blah. My response: “We are done. Clearly you are not ready to have this conversation. We will talk about this another day. You may leave my room, and don’t slam the door.” He left and slammed the door.

I know you wonder what that last item was, seriously what could be worse to a teenager than having a two hour daily limit, right? Well apparently having certain times during the day to access the phone can:

Daily schedule you will be permitted to use your phone: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday- 7am to 8am, 3pm to 5pm, and 7pm to 9pm. Friday up to 11pm instead of 9pm and Saturday all day up to 11pm and Sunday all day up until 9pm.

Day 10- the child approached me and asks if he can have his phone back again. My response is, “Are you ready to talk like a human being?” He says yes, but I am not sure., but I proceed by repeating all I had said before, and added in the daily schedule, along with the fact that I installed an app on his phone that will shut the phone down at non-scheduled times, and the phone will also shut down when the limits are met. The only exception is the ability to call or text his father or I.

Deep breath as I look into the eyes of the totally dissatisfied teen, trying to kill me with his stare. His response: “I thought we were over the app thing?” My response: “I did too, but obviously you haven’t mastered it. “

Stalemate, no words are being said, and then it happens, a smirk and smile and the simple words, “Okay I agree, can I have my phone back now?” I smile and smirk and say, “You can have it back tomorrow morning, oh and by the way, if you screw around with the phone or try to remove the app, I will suspend the phone with Verizon and you will be carrying around a brick. Are we good?”

He was given the phone back this morning; and between 7am and 8am he burned 36 minutes of his daily one hour allotment of Snapchat letting the troops know he was back online.

Parenting sucks at times. It is exhausting. It would be so much easier for me to just let him have the freakin phone and do whatever he wants. Don’t these kids realize that, my parents job was to ruin my life and in turn I get to ruin my kids lives, and they will get to pass it along. It is the cycle of parenting. His final words to me were: “I still don’t see why this is such a big deal for you, I get really good grades”.

I in turn responded: You are correct in that in the past that is all I would have cared about, you getting good grades. However, I now know better that grades aren’t everything, they are only a part of you and I want you to be a sociable, engaged young man, and I care about ALL of you, not just your grades. No backtalk on that one, just a head nod.

Right now, feeling pretty good about my ability to hold my ground and not becoming a crazy person in the process. I am not going to lie, I just got an alert he burned the 2 hours by just constantly trying to access things on the phone and I am dreading how he is going to come through the door and the enormous attitude that will come with it. I suspect that there will be some crying, whining and begging, and I still really have no idea how he will react. 🙂

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