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Stealing our Kids Back
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in various newspapers. Here's today's, based on a bit of a discussion we've been having around here lately:

What would you do if a pervert came to your door and asked to speak with your 13-year-old daughter in private? Something brutal involving a corkscrew immediately comes to my mind.

But is this really so different than what happens millions of times everyday with our kids and technology? Our children huddle in their rooms with their computers, their iPods, and their televisions, and they imbibe a pop culture which is inherently antithetical to everything healthy families stand for. Culture tells our kids that image matters, not character; that the easy life is to be admired, rather than an honest life of hard work; and that morality is so yesterday.

And then we wonder why teens grunt at us rather than holding normal conversations.

I recently received an email from a friend whose teenage daughter is stuck in summer school because of poor marks. What should the mom do?

Academics are important, but if teens start doing poorly in school, more often than not those marks are the symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. The problem is that the child has forsaken our value system, which includes our belief that you should work hard at school so you can support yourself, instead of living in your parents’ basement for the rest of your life.

To combat this, I recommend instituting “work hours”, perhaps for an hour and a half at night, when everyone in the family works. Kids complete homework, and parents balance the chequebook or go through the mail. Do it together, at the kitchen table, so you can see whether or not your teen complies! If teens aren’t present at the study session, all technology gets turned off for that day and the next day. It’s not rocket science. Just do it.

Parents, after all, are not as helpless as we think we are, even if our teens are bigger than us. Sure teens are intimidating, because we can’t force them to talk, smile, or even look us in the eye. But we do control the purse strings, which means that our children watch television, play video games, and surf the web only at our pleasure. All these things are privileges, and they can be taken away!

And perhaps they should be taken away, or at least minimized. Many of our children are addicted to technology, and it’s giving them the wrong value system. Besides, there is no reason for kids to have a television or a computer in their room where you can’t monitor them. Get it out of their bedrooms, now. It’s your house.

Our kids are relating to technology, but they’re not relating to us. So eat dinner together as a family. Tell jokes. Have debates! Once a week, host a family night when you play games. Sure kids may complain “this is so lame”, but stick to it.
Within a few months you will see a change, because games are actually fun. While camping recently, I taught my girls and one of their friends to play the card game “Hearts”. Of course, it was more fun before they figured out how to stop me from getting control, but even now that they’ve improved, it’s still guaranteed to bring smiles! Play Monopoly. Try some newer games that are a riot: Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Blokus.

Life does not need a screen; it does need relationships. So this summer, why not do a massive overhaul of your home, get rid of the technology from the kids’ rooms and invest in a game cupboard instead? You have power. You control the money. Let’s steal our kids back. Whether or not they realize it, they need us. Now go shuffle those cards!

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At 8:51 AM , Blogger Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said…

AMen and Amen. Too often my friends say, "well, that's just typical teen behavior." We are not raising "typical" teens and one was is to drastically eliminate screen time. Oh, it's so tough being the mean mom. ;)


At 9:06 AM , Blogger { jamie's cottage } said…

Amen, sister!
No one in our family has a tv in their room. We have one old & decrepid one in a room that requires the viewer to sit on the floor (no furniture in there except for an exercise bike!). The computer is in the main living area. The cell phone does not have internet access or data (to send or receive images, etc.), & only a "basic" music-only ipod.

Technology makes it so easy to get priorities out of order. God should be first. Period. Then family. Then friends/hobbies/etc.

Thanks for another great post.


At 9:40 AM , Blogger Mrs W said…

It would be so nice if I could do this, but my husband insists that technology is a "right" for kids. They have a "right" to wear headphones (which I think is totally rude lol), and they have a "right" to internet access. At least he agrees with no TV's or computers in the bedrooms...for now anyway. His parents were super strict with him (never let him listen to any of his conservative Christian music on a regular stereo with no headphones just because they didn't want him to have the pleasure that comes from listening to music. These days his sister has a computer with internet access, a TV, a DVD player, and a Zune, all in her room, and we never see anything of her as she leaves her room to go out, eat, or use the bathroom and that's about it).


At 5:37 PM , Blogger Renee said…

Great column! I just have to apply it to myself first - it's pretty easy to catch myself spending far too much time on facebook, email, etc. instead of connecting with my family.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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