Recently I met with parents of a 15 year old girl who is addicted to her phone, her computer, her tablet...and her apps!! Parents had been noticing a spiraling down of grades, attitude, and spending as little time as possible in their presence. Anything sounding familiar here? Previous to our meeting, the parents had tried to set limits, but as you all know, once your kids are in addiction mode, this can be unbelievably challenging and fraught with constant conflict and fighting. Not a pleasant home to live in!!!
At my suggestion, the parents signed up and installed Disney Circle, a popular parental control program that helps them assume control over their kids social networking life. Today I got call from these parents, explaining that after they installed this program, their daughter's behavior had deteriorated even further, and the anger and abuse she spew was mind-blowing!! But then the mom went on to explain, that she caved, just spent from all the fighting, she gave back most of what she had taken away, but with a caveat. You have a choice now, do what you need to do, complete all missing assignments, and stay up to date with daily homework, spend more time with the family, and basically be a kinder gentler self, OR we take it all away...again! Pretty tall order. Initially, I groaned when I heard that her daughter's antics had worn these poor parents down and that the lesson she had learned was, being my most terrible self gets me what I want. But....and there is a big but here, the outcome was actually really positive.
The daughter completed all her assignments. The parents know this because the high school she attends has records online for parents on a daily basis from all teachers about missing assignments. So the parents were checking daily and yup, assignments were being completed and handed in on time. Also attitude and time with family improved!! I was really surprised, until I thought for a moment, and here's what I think happened. I think when these parents actually followed through with the parental controls, and the daughter realized in fact, that they were, for the first time completely in control of her use of social networking and phone/computer. Cue rage!!!!This absolute control came as a shock to this kid who had been able to manipulate her parents through her anger. When parents gave in, they actually also acquired a new bargaining tool. And here is the new deal. If and when she chooses to be disrespectful, avoids homework assignments and bails on school work, which is information for which her parents have daily access, goodbye phone, good night text, goodnight snapchat and instagram! And now that she has actually experienced life without connection, she does not want to do it again!! For a teen who sets up everything as a power struggle, she is now being given control over herself and her choices. But now parents have control too, and the kid knows it!
Teens need structure, expectations, and a little bit of control! Parents need to feel that they have the ability to do what they need to do to make sure their kids are their best selves. Parental controls are really the only way to do that. Magically you are given the power to turn on or turn off, control time limits for apps that take up wayyyyy too much time like snap streaking and chat and instagram and group chats.
Try it you'll like it!! Here are some of the popular ones. They cost about $50 a year. Well worth it!!