Saying, "I made a mistake" to your teens is not easy. Saying, "I made a mistake by giving you a smartphone" to your teen, is asking for World War III. But that is exactly what these two amazing parents did. Here is their tale. Several weeks ago I gave a talk at a middle school. As usual, I gave my "thoughts" on why smartphones should be a graduation from high school gift, and not before. For my "thoughts" on this matter, visit my archives for many blogs where I have expressed my rather strong opinion. Anyway, friends of these parents(the ones I love) had been in attendance, and had paid particular attention to the smartphone advice. The following day, the seminar attendees called this couple, who they knew had provided all four of their preteen and teenaged kids with smartphones, and relayed my advice about smartphones. Their children's ages ranged from 10-16. When these parents heard this, they thought about it and decided that even though they didn't even know me, they would follow my advice. Talk about blind trust.
So here is how it all went down, and why I love these parents. The dad called his carrier to ask advice on how best to handle the cellphone shakedown and exchange. After a lengthy conversation with the local branch manager of his carrier, they told him to come in and they would help him to choose new phones. Here is the best part. When the dad walked into the store, and introduced himself to the manager, the entire store of clerks gave him a standing ovation!!!!! They slapped this guy on the back, and congratulated him for making this tough decision, saying ;" We wish all parents would be this brave and smart!" Imagine, a store now losing money on 4 smartphones and data plans, praising this parent for making such a brave decision. Brave, what's so brave you ask? Well, as you can imagine, when the teens were told of the switcharoo, they were jumping all right, just not jumping for joy. Smartly this dad used a number of 'I get it" statements with the kids. "I get how angry you are, I know how much you love your phones, and really it is all my fault, I just didn't think it through. I didn't get how important these phones would become to you, and how much time you would be spending on them. I am really sorry to do this bait and switch. It's totally on me. " The parents didn't get angry when their kids exploded. They anticipated it, and were prepared to stay calm.
These parents called to meet with me just after this momentous event. But honestly, they had done everything right, and I didn't have much to offer. I asked how they had made the decision in the first place to give the kids smartphones. And here is what they said: " We wanted our kids to be on the cutting edge of technology, and thought these phones were part of that. But then as soon as the kids got their phones, we saw a marked decline in the time the family hung together, each kid hidden away in their room, downloading their personal preferences, whether movies, games, music, TV, or facebook, and becoming glued to this tiny screen." The dad admitted he probably wouldn't have thought to take them away until he heard from his friends about my seminar.
I have a lot of respect for these parents. It is not easy to give something so addictive to kids, and then take it away. The good news is after the initial shock the kids were all fine. They still had A cellphone they could text on, and when they "got" that this was non-negotiable, they let it go, and moved on. After all, really, there is more to life than a smartphone, believe it or not!