Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Teengers with Smartphones Need Smart Parents

"Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds."
(Proverbs 27:23)

"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers..."
(Acts 20:28)

When God entrusts to a shepherd the care of His flock, that shepherd is responsible to love, nourish, guard, and guide the sheep.  In short, he is to protect and provide.

But how can a shepherd--be he a pastor, or perhaps, a parent--properly protect and provide for the sheep if he is unaware?


Unaware of their needs.
Unaware of their feelings.
Unaware of their struggles and temptations.
Unaware of their danger.
Unaware of their doings.
Unaware of their spiritual condition.

Parents, God has called you to know the state of your flocks.  

You are responsible, not only to take heed to yourselves, 
but to the flock over which He has made you overseers.

Over the last several months, my wife and I have given much time, in thought and in discussion, to the subject of teenagers with smartphones and the subsequent absence of parental involvement, guidance, or oversight thereto.

From my observations, it seems that parents are very unaware when it comes to smartphones:

Unaware of what is readily accessible on smartphones.
Unaware of what apps and social media their teenagers are using regularly.
Unaware of how to check their teenager's smartphone for particular "red flags".
Unaware of how much time and dependency their teenager has given to his/her smartphone.
Unaware of the longterm danger afforded by unguided, unrestricted, unlimited, and unsupervised access to their smartphones.

Parents, God has called you to know the state of your flocks.

You are responsible to be aware.


1.  Become aware.  Find out from your teenager which apps and social media he/she uses.  Just ask.  Have them take out their phone, show you what the apps look like, explain how they work, and tell you why they enjoy them.

2.  Have a heart-to-heart talk with your teenager about the three T's: testimony, temptation, and trust.

  • Testimony: Make sure you explain to your teenager that our social media should be "distinctly Christian."  That means that if someone were to browse through our social media, it would be apparent--by what we post, share, or "like"--that we are Christians.
  • Temptation: Warn them about the dangers of clicking on things that could potentially compromise their purity or safety.
  • Trust: Firmly insist that they remain open and honest about that smartphone activity.  Explain to them that dishonesty and sneaking destroys trust; and when trust has been broken the consequences are long-lasting.  Tell them upfront that if they lose your trust, they will forfeit their smartphone privileges for a LONG time.

3. Get connected.  Sign up for EVERY social media that your teenager uses.  Then befriend them accordingly.  Make sure you befriend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, check out their "story" on Snapchat, and so on...

"But I don't know how to do this.  Where do I even start?"

Ask your teenager for help.  (They might even think it's cool!)

4. Check your teenager's phone.  Do it periodically.  Look at history, contact lists, texts, recent activity in social media, etc.  Always do this UNANNOUNCED.  Don't give your teenager 4-5 minutes to make some deletions before they hand it over to you.

      "Son, would you mind if I took a look at your phone?"

      "Umm, uhh, sure Dad, let me run up to my room and get it."

      4-5 minutes later...

      "Son, what took you so long?"

      "Oh, I couldn't find my phone at first...and then, umm, I had to use the bathroom."

Don't let this happen.  Make sure your "phone checks" are unannounced.

* By the way, if you don't know how to check the phone, or what to look for, set up a meeting with someone from church who can help.  (Be sure to bring the smartphone with you to the meeting--not the teenager--just the smartphone.)

5. Know all passwords.  Ask your teenager to give you the passwords for everything, including the unlock code for the phone itself.  Explain that they are to notify you first if they ever feel the need to change a password.

"Honey, I tried to get onto your Facebook account earlier today, 
but it seems that the password has been changed."

"Oh, sorry Mom, I changed it the other day because my friend was hacking 
into my account.  I was going to tell you, but I forgot."

Don't let this happen.  Parents should be notified before passwords are changed.

6. Don't let your teenager go to bed with his phone.  Have him/her turn it in at a certain time each night, perhaps 9pm.  Keep the phone in your bedroom.  When teenagers have their phone in their bedroom overnight, it leads to problems.  More often than not (and more often than you would imagine), teenagers who have their phones in their bedroom overnight are up all hours of the night on social media.  They are texting friends, posting on social media, surfing the net, and watching hours of videos on Youtube.  The effects of this are damaging physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

"But Dad, I need my phone early in the morning--I use it for my alarm to wake up."

Don't let this happen.  Buy your teenager a nice alarm clock for Christmas.

7. Answer the phone when I call you.  Establish the following rule: If the parent calls the teenager, the teenager must answer the phone.  If there is some extenuating circumstance that precludes your teenager from answering the phone immediately, then the teenager must return the call as soon as possible.  Note: It is NOT acceptable for a teenager to decline an incoming call from mom or dad, only to reply back with a text.  The teenager must answer the phone.

8. Location Services should be turned ON at all times.  For example, on an iPhone there is an app called "Find MY iPhone". This is a feature that uses GPS to allow a parent to see exactly where the iPhone--and the teenager--are located.  This should never be turned off.

9. Another rule to establish: Do not use your phone when you are supposed to be giving your undivided attention to other things (e.g., school, youth outings, church, work, etc.).  Perhaps you might also want to establish times in your home when cell phones are off limits, such as meal times or during a family outing.

10. Keep your relationship with your teenager thriving.  Don't let months go by without spending significant quality time together.  Talk, talk, talk.  Take your teenager out on a fun outing--but be sure to talk together.  Pay close attention to your teenager.  Notice any changes of appearance, attitude, or actions that seem unsettling.
  • All my son ever wants to do is be by himself in his room.
  • My daughter used to enjoy family outings, but now she just wants to stay home alone.
  • When the family is spending time together talking, laughing, and enjoying one another, my teenager just sits on the couch glued to his phone.

Don't let this happen.  You cannot let your teenager become estranged to you or the family.  Keep the relationship thriving.


If you cannot maintain these above-listed recommendations, then it might be wise for you hold off in giving your teenager a smartphone.

Remember, teenagers with smartphones need smart parents!

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