Without the hardlined “Not in our house!” mantra, it’s pretty difficult to control teenagers exposure to all kinds of media that not only influence them and their actions/thinking, but also eat into precious family time. We’ve managed to find some happy agreements in our household, on most things. Here’s our take on it:
1. iPods : It’s “the thing to have” these days, and sometimes it’s hard to just say “no!” to these things, especially when they’re actually useful – and fun! My fear was that if we bought the girls their “own” iPods, they would be forever tuned out – headphones on, head down, no longer a part of this family (they have admitted they purposely do this to other people). Our compromise – a FAMILY iPod, that we can all download songs on (and Momma can keep an eye on what’s downloaded), and we can each take turns using when needed. Because seriously – nobody needs to be listening to anything all day long, every day.
2. TV : WE CANCELLED CABLE!!! The girls both admit they actually don’t miss it at all. If we REALLY “need” to watch something, we can catch it on YouTube, get Gramma to “save” it on her Tivo for us or, in the case of hockey, catch it at a nearby pub. Otherwise, we buy a season’s DVD’s we think we’ll enjoy and watch it together, with NO COMMERCIALS – and actually turn it off when we’re done! The hours we save! We try to watch what the girls enjoy – Hubby even gets into Gossip Girl (what a trooper).
3. Movies : Well, the girls are getting older, and I can’t see every movie and rate it before they go. We’ve tried to teach them discernment early on, and now we just trust them to make the right decisions. At home, we have our own DVD library (some new, but most are off the “Previously Viewed” shelves) of movies we all really enjoy. Once a month or so we all sit down together and we make a huge batch of nachoes, fresh salsa and homemade guac and enjoy some family time. We used to call them “James Bond” nights, but we’ve since expanded our repetoire. Talking about movies you watch together can also be a great way to get into your teens mind and learn about them…
4. Music : While I can’t oversee everything the girls hear, I try to listen to “their” radio station in the car with them, and I have my own favorites and talk to them about theirs. I think we have a very open communication about what we let our ears hear. I offer to buy their songs on iTunes (“we don’t steal, girls!”) and that way I can see what they’re buying, talk to them about it if it’s questionable, and REALLY talk to them about it if it’s just plain bad.
5. Facebook/MSN : We’ve had to, once or twice, put a time limit on “computers” for the girls. We reinforce that they need to make sure they’re balancing their life – time indoors, time out; time alone (computer), time with family, time with friends, time for homework. We’ve debated buying them their own laptops for their homework, but in the end I think that’s just giving them MORE ways to tune out from the people around them. We have a family laptop that is beside the kitchen, that we can see the screen of any time we happen to walk by. Done. And if I see the same boys name on the screen many times over, I know to start asking some questions…
6. Cell Phones : The girls have each had their own cell phone since Gr.8, which admittedly has been very handy. I haven’t figured out how to control the texting, though… Not that I mind, but when I’m talking, I prefer to be listened to, not kind of heard while you’re texting someone else. That said, I probably text more with each of the girls than any of their friends… They’re simply not as interested in actual talking – other people might HEAR! Anyone have more ideas on this one??
7. Videogames : This hasn’t been an issue since Gr.7. We have a Nintendo Game Cube, and a Wii, but usually when the girls play it’s with their friends over, or we’re ALL playing (can you say ROCKBAND!?) together. Back in Gr.7, though, we had to put a time limit on it. We told them that if they could manage their time themselves, it wouldn’t be an issue, but that if they were spending too much time on the computer/videogaming and not balancing their time, we’d have to start making some rules. That was enough – it never became an issue again.
8. Fashion Mags : A + I have a weakness for fashion mags! While I don’t get the impression she is overly influenced by body-type, it’s nice to sit together and read through the latest In Style or September Vogue and actually TALK about what catches her (or my) eye on each page. The 3 of us girls sit sometimes and we each pick a best/worst item (not person!) on every page.
Best of quality-time-with-your-teens to you all!