Navigating Technology With Our Kids in a Screen-Obsessed World

*Updated with Winners* Congrats to random commenters Tanya and Ami!

My oldest daughter got her first school locker at 5th grade orientation at the new middle school.  She nervously worked her combination and adjusted the books on her white locker shelf and added a mirror on the door. I’ll never forget the day four years ago—not because it was a big deal that she was growing up. Because it was. But I remember it more because of how grown up the other kids around her seemed.

The girl next to her had fake nails, hair highlights was wearing name brand clothes head-to-toe and had was going to take notes on a tablet. And at the locker below her, a girl was texting her boyfriend on her iPhone. It felt more like a scene from high school musical than the 5th grade.

little girl behind a tablet pc

I silently prayed I could keep my little girl little and we could navigate these adolescent years well. And we have so far.

When she asked for certain brands, we talked about budgets and saving and through the years she enjoyed a few. When she asked for a smart phone, we told her high school and thankfully, she hasn’t asked for fake nails or a boyfriend yet.

We recognized along the journey that some parents said yes sooner than we did and others said it later. And that’s okay. Because there’s not a perfect age or stage and we are all doing the best we can. I think it depends on what’s right for your family.

I’m not saying it was easy. It was just plain hard at times. I think my daughter must have asked for something we weren’t quite ready to give her a hundred times during those middle school years. We would remind her of our goal. The requests lessened in junior high.

That’s why surprising her a few days ago before she started high school with her own smart phone was a joy for all of us. She was shocked. But she was ready and the moment felt like victory for all of us.

Along with her phone we gave her this contract. It requires phone etiquette and usage rules and where and when it’s appropriate. We all signed it.

It’s just a matter of time before your child has the power of technology at their fingertips. Whether it’s a game system, a smart phone or a Kindle or a laptop, technology is more accessible than ever and it’s here to stay. Every parent reading this handles is differently.  It’s not a question of if, it’s a matter of when.

I love technology. It’s a huge part of my life and I certainly don’t want to rob my kids of the good things that it offers. But more than anything, I want them to understand the power it wields, the dangers that are a click away and make sure they are mature enough to handle it.

It’s a big subject that changes as fast as the next upgrade and it’s our job to not only monitor our kids, but to live by example.

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane helped us with this decision. This summer I read (and endorsed) this important book and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s like curriculum for parents in our tech-savvy and screen-obsessed world and it released this week!

In my daughter’s cell phone contract, we asked that she wait on a Facebook account until she was older, but gave permission for an Instagram account. After a couple of days, she said, “Mom, I’m going to wait on that too. I don’t think I’m quite ready for it yet.”

And I knew we’d waited long enough. She was ready.

Today, I’m giving away two copies of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World. Leave a comment if you’d like to win.

Comments

  1. 2

    Kelli T. says

    Wow – thank you for this post -I feel like technology is taking over some days. We are standing strong and would love to read this book.

  2. 5

    Angela E. says

    Awesome post! We waited awhile on our oldest to get a cell phone and just gave him the responsibility this year for his 15th birthday, with a contract as well. At times the wait has been hard, but he has been on board and so much more ready for the responsibility by waiting.

  3. 6

    ErnaS says

    My grandchildren are still young, but I can see the direction that technology is going, and I would love to share resources with their parents on not giving in to the cultural pressures.

  4. 8

    Jenny Leavitt says

    “Because there’s not a perfect age or stage and we are all doing the best we can. I think it depends on what’s right for your family.” This comment is true in so many areas of parenting today. I would love to read this book.

  5. 9

    Kelli S says

    Sounds like a great book, urgently needed. I’m so tired of all the tech. I’m ready to hibernate! But yes, I’ve got a 9yr old now. Any advice most welcome :)

  6. 10

    says

    Sounds like a book that I would love to read! Would love to win it, but even if I don’t then I am putting it on my must read list. Thanks! And I loved this post!! Good job Momma!

  7. 12

    Vicki says

    What a wonderful post, the pressure in the UK is ridiculous too. My son is 10 and in his last yr at primary school and so many of his friends have smart phones already, so I’d love to win a copy of the book x

  8. 13

    Emily V says

    I really hope I win! If not, I’ll probably buy a copy anyway. We’ve get a lot of technology issues in our house right now and I need some direction! Would moving to a remote homestead in Alaska be going overboard??

  9. 14

    Wendi says

    Good for you guys!!! So many tough decisions to make with all of this social media and technology. Thanks for the book recommendation, I look forward to checking it out.

  10. 18

    Jan says

    I’d love to read this book. My oldest began middle school this year and those high school years are not far away – he and his younger siblings will be there before we know it!

  11. 20

    Jamie says

    I have three kids, ages 4, 3 and 14 mo. My oldest is already asking for an iPad and a phone! I would LOVE a copy of this book!

  12. 22

    Karen says

    Great insight here! As we are in waiting middle school years, this would be a great help in preparing for the next step.

  13. 23

    Kindra Murphy says

    My husband and I have this conversation almost daily. I think it has to be revisited often to stay on top of everything. Thank you for your guidance.

  14. 25

    Jammie says

    Sounds like a book we really need to read… our oldest is 13 and one of the phoneless few. I know the day will come that we are ready for her to have her own phone, and we could really use some helpful tips to keep us all on the same page.

  15. 26

    Jen says

    I would love this book !!! I have 3 kids – 8th grade, 5th grade and 3rd. The 3rd grader wants to know why he can’t have a phone when all of his friends do ! Good grief !

  16. 33

    Karen says

    LOVE the contract. We had our boys sign a driving contract that we occasionally had to pull out as a reminder that driving was a privilege not a right! :-)

  17. 37

    Tina says

    Would love a copy! My oldest has a phone primarily so we can be in touch for activities and safety reasons. He’s ventured into Instagram (I fount out by accident that he had an account but it was hard to be upset when his friends were all his youth group buddies and his youth pastor and his description was FOLLOWER OF JESUS!) I think he is ready :) But now there are the younger siblings and I’m more in a quandry as to how to handle. Technology only starts earlier and earlier. Thanks for sharing your experience and I’m anxious to get more guidance as well. God bless your day!

  18. 38

    Debbie says

    I would so love to have this book! We’re navigating middle school right now, and my daughter is “the ONLY girl in 7th grade not to have a phone!” At least that’s what she tells us. :-)

  19. 39

    Gina says

    We have 4 children, 2 in highschool. We have a cell contract and would love to read the book for when that contract is violated. Hard to be the parent then! But, we have to hold our ground so our kids learn how to make the right decisions in difficult situations. Thank you for your blog! I look forward to reading it.

  20. 41

    Amanda says

    Excellent post! It’s so hard to navigate simply in a complex world. We all should find the answer that’s right for our family. :-)

  21. 42

    jodi bechtold says

    We could really use this book! With 5 kids, I’m finding myself parenting out of fear instead of grace filled confidence.

  22. 43

    Ginger says

    Always enjoy your encouraging posts!
    We are in the same place as your family!
    We have a 6th grade boy & my husband & I were just having this conversation!
    Thank you again!

  23. 45

    Christi says

    I would love to read this. Technology can be very addictive and my son is only 8! I need tips on how to wade through this with him.

  24. 46

    Beth Lewis says

    I am often amazed at the young kids I see with their own smart phones and tablets. I will definitely need to check out this book. Thanks for another great, encouraging post!

  25. 49

    Erin says

    Would LOVE to read it as my kids are getting older. Anything to aid in helping them understand the “whys” and “why nots” of technology. Thanks!!

  26. 50

    Sarah says

    Sounds like the perfect book for me. 4th grader wants to keep up with the teenagers. Son is more risky than his older sister. We struggle with keeping on top of their activity.

  27. 52

    Susan says

    This definitely hit home with me this morning. We have a 7th grade boy to whom we have just recently given his first iPod. Hopefully, that will be good for now and we can put off the phone issue for another couple of years. I think this book would be great to have!! Thank you for your honest blogs. I really enjoy them.

  28. 54

    Jill merritt says

    would love to read. We have a blended family with 3 in their 20’s and then a 14 and an 11 yr old. My husband and I have a difficult time raising the 14, who just started highschool. Technology is everywhere and we are “old school”. However, I try to stay on board and keep up with the world and it’s kids and technology. The book would be great for us both to read so we have a better and clearer understanding.

  29. 56

    Christa says

    With three kids, I feel like my husband and I are constantly struggling with finding a healthy balance in this world of technology. Sometimes it is a source of positive interactions and technology can provide some valuable tools for my children to use. However, many times I feel it is a source of negativity as my children and I disagree on appropriate usage (especially screen time!). I would love to read this book and find some helpful tips to navigate the world of technology and find the healthy balance for my family!

  30. 57

    says

    Ooh, would love this! Our 11 YO son just started middle school, and swears he is the *only* kid without a phone… I agree that technology can be a blessing, but the live people you’re with ALWAYS come first!!

  31. 59

    Katie says

    Love this post! And I would love to get a copy if this book to help us navigate this area of our family’s life! Thanks!

  32. 60

    Erin H. says

    My oldest is 10 and in 5th grade. Since we homeschool, the time he is most around other kids his age is at church. There are a handful of kids (mostly boys, interestingly) who have been bringing their own ipods to church for YEARS. We have set rules that he is not allowed to “look over their shoulder” or even watch something they say is cool (free church wifi can be a dangerous thing). But he was born into a tech world and I know we need to address it head-on rather than hide from it. I would love to read this book!

  33. 61

    Paula Aguirre says

    We have waited for smart phones way past friends and family. Now as we enter high school, it is time. Would love the guidance this book could provide.

  34. 62

    valerie says

    We definitely could use some help in this area. We have a first-year high schooler and a first-year middle schooler, and I don’t feel like we’ve handled technology well. :( It is so very hard to navigate.

  35. 63

    says

    Sounds like a great book! Would love a copy as I/we navigate this world – one that I don’t have childhood experiences to draw upon! If I don’t win a free one, I’ll definitely have to purchase a copy!

  36. 65

    Jason says

    My family is navigating through these same issues and appreciate your words of wisdom. We would enjoy reading the book as well.

  37. 67

    LeAnne says

    Thank you so much for this post! I struggle with technology with my nine year old–how much and what kind. He thinks he can handle it with no strings attached and I wouldn’t mind if he just unplugged!

  38. 68

    Melissa Parker says

    I greatly enjoy your blog and find it very refresshing-you see, I am “that mom” I am constantly judged by my ex husband’s family because I o not allow electronics and tv in rooms. I believe tv should reflect family time and not be unsupervised or over used when there are so many things that can be done such as books to read and lego castles to built. I agree with accounts as well. My 14 yr old does have Facebook, but under the condition that I monitor friends and posts-yet another way I am judged. My ex sister in law accuses me of “micromanaging” my children. I prefer to think it is protecting and guiding them until they are mature enough to make their own responsible decisions. I would love to read this book.

  39. 71

    Sharon B says

    This definitely sounds like I book I need to read. We gave out kids their first cell phone when they were in 7th grade, when they started doing more after-school activities and our oldest two got smart phones in high school. My 7yo (2nd grade) is already asking when he can have a cell phone. I’m always amazed to see the number of elementary school kids with phones…and not regular cell phones, iPhones and other smart phones! What a crazy world we live in.

  40. 72

    Brandy Maddox says

    Thank you for this blog post! I’m looking forward to reading that book. As we approach middle school years with our kids I’m feeling a bit lost with how to handle media.

  41. 75

    Terra P says

    Thank you ! I feel like we are the only ones waiting out the iphone request. The thing is we have daughters (21 and 23) so we have been down that road before and know sometimes kids are not ready to have stuff instantly sent or received. I also think there is joy in things you wait patiently for. Who knows maybe it will be next year, maybe not till jr high, either way, it is our time not what everyone else is doing.

  42. 76

    Amanda says

    This is a hot topic in our house with our daughter and I struggle with finding a balance with technology. Thank you for the contract! I am definitely keeping that and it is great to remind her (as well as myself!) that there are plenty of families making the choice to wait on technology and everything connected to it!

  43. 78

    Stephenie says

    Would love to read this book!! I find it crazy how much time we all spend staring at screens these days and the things kids can stumble upon, completely innocently, are horrible.

  44. 79

    Melanie says

    Loved this article. This subject is something that I’ve been really contemplating lately. Would love to read the book.

  45. 80

    Jennifer W says

    I would love to read this book! My daughter just started 5th grade so we are getting ready to venture into this area, it’s already came up. My son is in 4th grade and many of his friends already have cell phones…they’re just not ready yet…we aren’t ready. They have kindles but they aren’t allowed online and we have the parental controls on it, but even they have been an issue with spending too much time on them.

  46. 82

    Shelley W says

    I would love a copy of this book to review and share with my preteen parents as this is on our list of topics to cover at our parent meeting!

  47. 83

    Beth says

    Would love a copy of this – we have a 10th grader (with no smartphone, just an IPod, which is almost as powerful as a smartphone), 6th grader and three year old. My husband and I don’t even have smartphones yet, but we can see that the time is coming. Would love to read this in preparation for that time.

  48. 84

    kara says

    Great post. Hope I win a copy of the book. With 4 kids with different personalities its hard to know the right timing with technology and other issues we face as parents with our kids are growing up so fast.

  49. 85

    says

    I would love to read that book. Our kids are 14,12,10&8 and I’d love insight on how to better guide them in choices about electronic devices. Thanks!

  50. 86

    Danielle says

    We are embarking on this technology journey with our kids too. I would love to read the book you recommended! Life is crazy and technology can make it crazier, but it’s here to stay. We have to figure out how to control it, not have it control us.

  51. 88

    says

    I appreciate your book recommendation. I think we could all use this to navigate the preteen/teen years. I like the idea of a phone contract, I may look into doing this. I have two teens with phones now and an 11 year old already asking when he will get one. Its often scary to give them access to technology, especially with unwanted popups that come about to peek their curiosity.

  52. 89

    Beth Pace says

    My 12 year old (7th grade) niece has had an iPhone since 5th grade. She just moved in with us last week. We have an 11 year old (6th grade) daughter that we’ve decided to wait until high school to give a smart phone to. We find it challenging to take over raising her when her mother made different choices for her than we would have. I’m sure this book would be helpful to us as we try to do the best thing for both girls.

  53. 93

    Sarah says

    Would love to win this book as I have been looking for a book exactly like this and think it is SO important how we handle and teach our kids about using technology!

  54. 95

    M. Cadden says

    This has been our biggest challenge to date with our 8th grade son. He has already made technology mistakes that could have been life changing to say the least had it not been caught early thanks to a brave mom who called me and told me! I would love to have this book as I now have two middle schoolers and a 3rd grader!

  55. 97

    Nicole says

    Thanks for this post… Another confirmation for me/us as parents!! Would love to win a copy of the book… Our oldest is 13 and just got his first iPod… Youngest is 10 and ready to get everything his brother has… Yesterday!!

  56. 98

    Lora F. says

    Would love to win a copy of this book. My daughter is about to turn 12, and she has been asking for a phone, her own tablet, etc. I monitor her computer access and TV watching closely. Thanks.

  57. 100

    Bri says

    Thank you for this. It’s so important to parent on purpose and it can be tempting to take the easy road, but may be detrimental. Would love to read this book.

  58. 102

    says

    I would love to read this book. Our oldest is in fifth grade, and he desperately wants some sort of device. We just don’t feel ready to walk that road, yet, so we’re navigating the waters with him. It’s tough, and I’m looking for all the encouragement and resources I can find to help me best parent my children into the waters of technology!

  59. 104

    Sarah says

    Thank your for the encouragement and reminder that there is no one size fits all mentality when raising our kids! We have an daughter in eighth grade and are “way behind” as far as society is concerned. This book would help navigate the rushing waters at the right pace for our kids!

  60. 107

    Kelli says

    It’s encouraging to know that I am not the only mom who is making her child wait. There are so many evils out there. I just want to know my daughter is ready.

  61. 108

    Leann says

    would love to read this and for my friends to, my kids are little yet, but I see it in my kids friends and it scares me! want to be prepared for when the time comes!

  62. 110

    Danielle :) says

    So time appropriate! Buying a second hand tablet for my SEVEN year old today. So much is already required of her online in school, that I thought, “may as well, price is right”. Lots if rules will go with it. But would love a copy of the book to help in this transition. A lot earlier than I would have liked, but we’ll survive it! Thanks for the timely post!

  63. 113

    Luiza says

    We had to sit down and talk with our boys about these issues too. It was hard when they came home telling us that his friend (2nd grade at the time) got an IPhone for Christmas. I saw parents rewarding kids elementary age with Tablets for good grades. We sit down and talk and we have our rules.

  64. 114

    Adrienne Terrazas says

    Thank you so much! We have our oldest son who just entered 6th grade. We feel like we are the only ones saying no to a lot of the technology, although we have said yes to kindles and iPods.

  65. 116

    Liz S says

    Just hitting this stage of life with my son. I have a love/hate feeling about technology and it’s hard to find the balance

  66. 117

    Tanya says

    I would love this book! Our 12 year old son was given a phone for his birthday. Some days, I want to smash it! Other times, I’m grateful than I can check on him at practice, take him something he’s forgotten, etc. The balance is so hard.

  67. 118

    Dione LeCavalier says

    We have four amazing kids. The youngest is 15, the oldest is 22. We are still navigating this cyber world with them! There have been many opportunities for growth… ahem… out-loud, working it out, give it to me right now, or it’s gone forever, growth… does that book come in kindle. jk. ha!

  68. 119

    Yusra says

    My children are very young and I can see already we will be struggling with screen usage. They love their iPad. I try to limit their time on it but sometimes it gets out of hand. I would love to have a copy of this book!

  69. 120

    Pam Wildes says

    I would love to read this. Our son got an iPhone on his 13th bday and he has done great this year. But we have a 9 year old daughter coming along so it will be different.

  70. 121

    says

    As a childcare provider and mom of two boys who LOVE their iPad and xBox, I limit their screen time as much as possible and try to encourage more imaginative and creative play. My husband and I disagree on how much screen time is appropriate (our kids are 3 and 8) and it sounds like this book may provide us with some ideas we could compromise on!

  71. 122

    Shelbie says

    This sounds like a great book. Thanks for your article. We are trying to navigate through the world of technology with our kids and it’s a hard road sometimes.

  72. 124

    says

    Our oldest is a 5th grader this year and we are always looking for more insight on navigating this complicated world of technology in order to help our kids use it well, but also understand the ramifications. This book seems like a great resource.

  73. 125

    MAureen Enoch says

    Would love to get my hands on a copy of this book….we are just on the cusp of this craziness, I have a 5 and 7 year old (who has already asked multiple times for a phone). I am scared about the teen years and how to navigate through this all.

  74. 126

    Jen says

    I’d love a copy of this book! My oldest just started 5th grade and is in a new school full of kids with cell phones, highlights, boyfriends, etc. (It’s just 5th and 6th graders in her building.) I see so much misuse of social media and phones in general by her peers. We’re sticking by our guns and holding out on all of this tech stuff and it is refreshing to see we are not alone as it feels like we are the only ones in our community that are “so strict”. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us today!

  75. 127

    Kit says

    I have 4 kids, my oldest two are 11 and almost 9 and they too look and seem younger than other kids their ages, I think about that sometimes as we near these “interesting” years coming up. I would love to win this resource to help my husband and me as we raise these 4 precious kids!

  76. 128

    Anne D says

    Wow! I am going to be buying this book. It is so hard to figure out what is appropriate and when. It is even harder to explain why you are saying no to siblings when they get to a certain age, but aren’t as mature as older siblings were at that age. But, all the hard times and talks are worth it!

  77. 129

    rhonda says

    I’m an engineer, so we have always been more “tech” heavy at our house (bc I love my toys too)…that being said, I have always felt “tech” is just a tool…just as social media can be used for good (i.e. your blog) it can also be used for bad…that is the lesson I have been trying to teach my girls- whether its a phone, a written note, a digital picture or a polaroid, etc…how and what you say/read/present to the world is the key. I’ll definitely be checking out the book you mentioned..

  78. 130

    says

    Even though I have a 16 year old, I feel like I’m navigating these waters for the first time. My oldest has little interest in the latest techno gadget. We joke that he is part Amish. :) My youngest is very into technology – he made a stop gap animation short when he was 10. They couldn’t be more different. When I see 2nd graders with iPhones, it seems like too much, but I do wonder where the balance is as my 16 year old still does not have a cellphone (by his choice which will change once he has that drivers’ license in his hands!). I’d love to read this book! Btw, I love reading this blog because we tend to be “that family” on many occasions too! :)

  79. 131

    Wendy S. says

    Ugh….this topic scares me to death! Our 13-year-old has also been asking for a smartphone for a while….thank you for the idea of using a contract! And thank you for this giveaway…I would love to win this book!

  80. 133

    says

    Too many young parents do not know the implications of technology and I see it fast becoming an idol in this world. I see young children being neglected regularly of emotional support because their parents are too busy with their own social media accounts and/or texting. It saddens me and scares me to think we will have generations that do not know how to communicate face to face, which may also explain the many anxieties so many young people suffer from.

  81. 134

    says

    Like many other parents of our generation I feel completely overwhelmed by this topic. Our kids aren’t allowed to play with our phones or tablets at all (my oldest just turned 8 in August and my youngest will be 6 at the end of September). Well, one day I’d sent my son (older one) to his room for time out. I went to make a phone call and couldn’t find my phone. A certain someone had taken it in his room and was playing an internet game that’s blocked on the computers while in time out! UGH! Let me count the ways he got in trouble THAT day.

    Here’s how we’re handling the time aspect. http://www.heidisathome.blogspot.com/2013/04/chip-please.html

  82. 137

    Angela says

    Yes please! I’m a mother of 3, my oldest are 18 and 19…my youngest is 10 and already begging for a phone. His father actually almost caved last week and I put my foot down. He’s never without one if us and for the few short instances he is, I hand him my phone. Otherwise, he’s with my mom or someone I trust that has a phone. He plays video games and Nintendo DS and games on MY phone enough as it is. Imagine if we handed him his own phone? His father continues to argue the safety issue and feels his being on the autism spectrum justifies giving him one early. But his siblings didn’t get cell phones until Junior High….and they only got them then because I had to go to work outside the home for a period of time and it was cheaper to add to lines to my cell bill and shut off the home phone. There’s no reason for him to have his own phone yet!

  83. 138

    Sarah says

    I really need to read that book! We are pretty good about screentime, etc… but have decided to incorporate a little motivation for our 2nd & 3rd grade boys with the game Minecraft. I had resisted letting them have it because I really didn’t want to have to deal with another technology time-sucker in the house. But recently realized that it might be a great way to teach & motivate them. So, now I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate it wisely & be able to teach them through this privilege. :)

  84. 146

    Laura says

    Thank you for this! My kids are still young, but I have been thinking about how to work through this issue. They have to learn to use the technology, but I want to make sure they are using it to benefit and not to harm themselves and others!

  85. 150

    lanolen says

    Having 8 year old boy/girl twins, this is becoming an issue. So you get a tablet….then what? How do you regulate usage (times, sites, amount spent, etc)? And how do you regulate (observation, checking in and up), etc)? All so overwhelming….

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