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Tether Yourself: The Enlightening Talk Parents Aren’t Having Can Keep Teens from a Damaging Drift

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Young people are facing an especially challenging growing-up experience these days. Smartphones are everywhere (that is to say, they’re with them everywhere) and along with them come a constant bombardment of marketing tactics and psychological tricks. Between Instagram models pressuring young girls to worry about their bodies,  social media algorithms that hack your brain to crave more comments and followers and likes, and the constant comparison of other people’s lives, it’s tough to be a pre-teen or a teen right now. 

It’s also tough to be the parent of a pre-teen or a teen.

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This technology is all new for everybody, and there’s been a pretty intimidating learning curve for parents everywhere. Without a previous generation to turn to for help, parents today are relying on each other for tips on how to protect their children from issues with mental health, self-image, relationships, and more that stem from the age of technology. 

Rachel Macy Stafford is a best-selling author, public speaker, and a loving mom. As part of her commitment to conscious parenting, she decided to tell the world about a unique turning point she had with her 14-year-old daughter. 

What I Told My Daughter About Her Cell Phone, And How It Changed Everything

After reading about the troubling story of young teen, Nina Langton who attempted suicide after dealing with body image issues and depression, Rachel knew she didn’t want to wait until something happened to her own daughter before they had “the talk” about cell phones. 

“And for the first time in three years, I knew exactly what I needed to do about the uneasiness I’d been feeling about her smartphone consumption.  I walked straight out of my bedroom and into my fourteen-year-old daughter’s room. I felt my heart racing at the importance of the conversation we were about to have. I found her stretched out on her bed, homework splayed across the bed. She was scrolling Instagram, as teens often do.” Rachel writes (1).

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Thus Rachel started a conversation with her daughter that she realized several weeks later would actually help her be noticeably more relaxed, more interested in family time, more physically active, and more diligent with homework and chores almost instantly. 

Here’s what Rachel said…

She started by explaining her own fears as a parent; she confided to her daughter that more than one mother of her friends had reached out to her after finding out her child had been bullied on Instagram. She told her what science actually says about teens and technology (that teens brains aren’t fully developed, and so are especially susceptible to isolation, hopelessness, and more). And then she gave her a special letter. Here are just a few powerful snippets that encompass this mother’s love for her child: 

Each time the phone notifies you, you stop what you are doing—whether it’s homework or a job you have to do. What might take you one hour to do, will take you several, and it won’t be completed as well. The inability to focus will reflect in your grades and impact the job opportunities you have as you grow. Spending quality time with friends and family will be impacted by the need to check the phone, making you believe what is most important is on your phone when it is really the person in front of you.”

“Awareness is your weapon against the hidden influences and damaging behaviors. While you are online, your mind, your thoughts, your core values are drifting to wherever tech companies want you to go. The remedy is to limit the time you spend drifting in the online world and tether yourself to real life.

Tether yourself
To real people, real conversations, and real scenery.

Tether yourself
To furry animals, interesting books, good music, the great outdoors.

Tether yourself
To spatulas, hammers, cameras, paintbrushes, and yoga mats.”

Continue reading her full letter here.

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Establishing Ground Rules for Cell Phone Use

But it wasn’t just words that Rachel used. She also followed up with a few ground rules (which she recommends to other parents!), such as: 

  • Don’t charge your phone in your room overnight
  • Let your friends know you won’t respond to texts after 9pm
  • Use a real alarm clock instead of your phone
  • Hourly limits to cell phone time at home

To read more about Rachel’s story, parenting tips, and advice for life, check out her book Hands-Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters.

Keep Reading: Harvard Psychologists: Parents Who Raise Good Kids Do These 5 Things

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