Discover more from Mentoring Kids in a Connected World with Devorah Heitner
Instead of Spying on Kids' Texts, Try These Six Conversation Starters
These chats will offer more insights than reading your kid's texts
Last week, I was at a school and a mom asked whether she should be reading her teen’s texts. She had no specific reason for concern, just a general feeling that he wasn’t sharing as much with her.
As you know, I‘m a big fan of mentoring over monitoring. If you do monitor, be sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Not just because your 15-year-old is less open with you about his life than he was when he was 11. That’s typical development and does NOT, on its own, indicate that your kid is in trouble, sexting, vaping, or doing anything wrong.
Most of the time, being in conversation with your kids will give you more insights than reading their texts. Over-surveilling our kids can be stressful and lead them to feel like they can’t talk to us. Many teens feel their parents’ surveillance has harmed the relationship by causing mutual mistrust.
We want to be a resource for our kids’ digital lives, but we also need to let them experience some independent problem-solving, especially as they get older. Even if some of the support comes from you, it is better if they get there through their own thinking process and choice.
Here are some conversation starters to make talking with teens about social media easier...
New Free Resource!
It's one of our worst fears in the digital age— someone will video our kid doing something awful and then share it. Or our kid will thoughtlessly post something or share it with a friend and it will go viral.
These are tough things to navigate and talk about with our kids but we have to face them. To help, I've created two new S.O.S. guides -- THE ULTIMATE S.O.S. GUIDE TO "I'M WORRIED ABOUT SEXTING!" and THE ULTIMATE S.O.S. GUIDE TO "DAMAGE CONTROL" FOR POSTS GONE WRONG. Both resources are FREE (and combined into one comprehensive PDF) that you can download here.
Feel free to share with any friends that could use them!
Are you worried that screens will eat your summer break?
As we put together our plans for summer screentime, let's remember that not all screentime is created equal.
Connecting with friends and family
Our kids want and need to stay in touch with friends when school is out for the summer. Tech-based communication like Zoom, Google Meet, Facetime, and Whatsapp makes staying in touch with far-flung family members easier, too.
Passive use vs. Interactive use
Is your kid interacting and engaging with apps and tools they use - building worlds, playing games, designing characters? Or is it passive - simply scrolling, “liking,” or watching?
Creating vs. Consuming
Is this screen time that encourages creation - editing videos, recording songs, writing a play, drawing a comic? Or are they just consuming other people’s content?
Learning new things
Sometimes passive consumption is educational - TikTok has become a surprisingly educational platform! If your kid is currently fascinated by a specific topic, screen time can be a great educational opportunity. Do check in with them about what they are learning and have them show you the videos and channels they are watching.
What are the fun summer things we need to make sure we do this year?”
I'm excited for summer but I have some of the same concerns about not letting tech/work/distraction eat that precious time. Summer is too short! Over here, the junior high and high school schedules don't align so it feels like we're in school late and going back super early. When did going back in mid-August become a thing? Dislike.
I'll be busy this summer getting ready for my fall book launch but I don't want work to eat my summer. Super excited about traveling with my family to Quebec and checking out some outdoor concerts here in Chicago! If May is stressful, I hope you can find one thing to look forward to after this hectic time is past.
I know summer's really coming because I finally wrestled myself into my wetsuit this week and braved a dip in Lake Michigan for the first time since October. I'm thrilled to say the booties really make a big difference.
I used to get out and fall over because I'd lose the feeling in my feet, but even though it feels like swimming in oven mitts and slippers, protecting my hands and feet is the way to go. Can't wait to do more!
Hope you holding it together through the wilds of May.
PS: Are you catching all the news about the Surgeon General's new report on social media? Bottom line: "Social media presents a meaningful risk of harm to youth, while also providing benefits."
It is awesome to see the wider recognition of the ways parents can help! I've got more to say on all of this soon. In the meantime: keep talking with your kids. Stay curious. You can be the mentor and coach they need to thrive in their digital world.