I hear a lot of disparaging remarks about teens in general, and teen use of hand-held technology in particular. “Teens these days don’t even know how to communicate without texting or Facebook.” What’s a parent to do? How can we get our teen’s attention?
One way to encourage relationship and conversation, ironically, is to hang up and be present. What percentage of the time do we greet our teens (or spouse or other family members) while engaged in a cell phone call? No one appreciates that. Cashiers, receptionists, and other professionals make it clear that customers on cell phones are a rude annoyance. How much more negative the message we send when we greet our teen while engaged in a call? When we arrive home from work, walk in the door, or pick our student up at school while paying attention to whomever is on the other end of the line, we send a strong signal: “This call is more important than you.” We may silently mouth to the teen right in front of us, “I’ll be off in a minute…,” but his or her place in the pecking order of our life has been clearly communicated.
If you think you might be on a call as you walk in the front door, consider delaying your entrance until you can finish the call or text. If you are spending time with your teen, say out at a restaurant at a ball game, turn the thing off for an hour; go ahead and remove the earpiece too. What signal will this send to your teen? “You are my priority.” Think through the instances when you would turn your phone off–is your teen any less important than that wedding, meeting, or concert? Take this time to be the example of healthy functioning in a relationship. Even if your teen does not disconnect his or her device, give your undivided attention, your eye contact, and by hanging up, your love.