People using their cell phones
The Tech Savvy Parent title
Brian Housman author
Facing the Brave New World subtitle

Fear. It’s the most paralyzing, suffocating, and humiliating emotion we deal with as parents. You feel it when your teenager pulls the family car out of the driveway alone for the first time. You remember feeling it when they were a wee little thing just learning to walk. And you feel it all the time when it comes to the screens in your kid’s life. I know this from the thousands of interactions with parents at conferences, the emails I receive each week, and sheepish inquiries from parents on Facebook asking for a moment of time.

This fear we all experience manifests itself in destructive ways that we don’t readily see. We are afraid of what we will see if we check their devices, so we ignore the urge. We are afraid of looking stupid because they know more than we do about every app, video game, and meme, so we don’t bring up the subject. We are afraid of overreacting and “messing up” our kids, so we let small instances of unhealthy behavior continue. I know because at some point or another I have done all of these. I’ve felt that wave of regret, frustration, disappointment, and anger—all directed at myself for not being willing to do what needed to be done. You’ve felt it too.

There are two truths that I want you to embrace and remember when you start to feel those fears.

Truth #1:

You love your child more than anyone else ever will. Just as you were careful with what foods to feed them in infancy and where they could roam in the yard alone, you must too love them enough to educate yourself on the technology they want to use and who they are communicating with on their screens. Love them enough to give accountability and guidance. Love them enough to connect with your child through technology instead of letting it be “their world.”

"Your child may not know the words to say, but he or she wants you - needs you - to stand in the gap for them." quote
When it comes to technology, your child will often be one step ahead of you and that is okay. One step ahead is close enough for you to keep them in sight. It’s close enough for you to talk about the issues without feeling uninformed or disconnected.
Truth #2:

Your child needs you more than anyone else in their life. The older they get, the more often they will pull away. This is even more so through the use of technology. Technology affords them the opportunity to connect with other people and explore different relationships. Those relationship are not a replacement for you; they are often a false escape. When they enter early adolescence and start understanding a world outside of Mom and Dad, they will seek out other people’s advice and affirmation. This is natural, and you need not feel threatened. Their relationship with you is like a rubber band—they will stretch away, but it will always snap back. The goal for you is not to avoid the stretch, but rather to be prepared for the snap back.

Contrary to what you may see (and oftentimes hear) from your child, they desire your protection. That feeling doesn’t go away simply because they start puberty or start dating or even move away for college. I have encountered hundreds of teenagers who have told me that they feel trapped by the screens in their life. They feel threatened by the comments made to them on social media and frightened of the world they see unfolding online. Your child may not know the words to say, but he or she wants you—needs you—to stand in the gap for them. They don’t need you to be a video game master or to be able to use clever emojis. They just need you to be brave enough to look out for them and engage them in this ever-changing world they are a part of. As you do, those fears you have will be lessened and the freedom you experience will abound.

Parent working with child on tablet

rian Housman has had the privilege of speaking at more than 200 parenting conferences from coast to coast and internationally. He is the author of Tech Savvy Parenting and Engaging Your Teen’s World. Brian and his wife Mona have been married for twenty-one years and have two teenagers, Bailey and Ashlan. Get daily parenting tips from him on Twitter at @bwhousman.