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What do ‘parental control’ apps teach your teen?

Parental control app, Ignore Me No More, shuts down the child's phone when the parents' texts and calls go unanswered.
Parental control app, Ignore Me No More, shuts down the child's phone when the parents' texts and calls go unanswered.

Recent headlines feature an app, “Ignore no more”, that shuts down the child’s smart phone when they ignore their parents’ texts. The app was developed by a frustrated mom who was tired of her son ignoring her calls and texts. While it is understandable that parents should expect that their children respond to them, is the problem really solved by shutting down their phone, or is this more than a simple phone use boundary? What lessons do you want your child to learn about open communication and self control? What signals will the parental controls you put in place send about personal responsibility and security? For the young teen driver, as one example, are you setting an expectation that responding to you is more important than their safety while behind the wheel?

See related: To spank or not to spank? How are you leading your child?

Last week Father Matthew Spencer, a member of the Oblates of St. Joseph delivered a talk about communicating the benefits of virtues(i.e., choosing the higher good), to the cyber-powered kid at St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church in Granite Bay. A significant consideration for the modern parent is the example you set for your child when it comes to establishing a balanced use of technology and family relationships. He cited a recent study that indicated 50% of teens are communicating with parents on mobile phones while behind the wheel. “You cannot teach what has to be learned,” he said. “So we need to be concerned that in our communication we do not emphasize getting back to mom or dad takes precedent over staying focused on driving safely.”

If your child is ignoring you, in addition to implementing consequences that limit freedom of communication it would also be wise to investigate further the motivation of your child. In order to impart wisdom, it helps to be open to learning from the child about how their experiences on and off line are informing them. Shutting down communication without a common understanding of the higher objective will reinforce the digital chasm.

To learn more about creating a family culture with responsible use of technology, go to: A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media.