Media Alternatives for Teen

I had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Junnifa of Nduoma.com today. I always love connecting with her. The passion she has for the Montessori pedagogy is inspiring.

She mentioned a situation that many parents of teens face and encouraged me write about it, and so here it is.

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Before I get started allow me this: we love media and the wireless age.

I might even shamelessly admit that we are in the “Apple Ecosystem”. But we want the boys to love and respect media. We also want them to love and respect their bodies and this beautiful planet. So, we make a huge effort to limit screen time. Even with Anthony.

Many of course know the extremely detrimental effects of allowing young children excessive screen time, but many don’t realize that those same effects are seen in teens.

So, who better to talk about media alternatives for teens than the very teen I’m referring to. These answers are his own. All pics above are of the exact item that Anthony owns with the exception of the pack and the bike. His are previous years models.

Me: “So, thanks for doing this.”
Anthony: “It’s fine. Actually, it’s a little weird.”
Me: “So, even though I already know, can you state for the record how much media time your friends get?”
Anthony: “Most of them get whatever they want.” They wake up, they’re on it all day, they stop to sleep. Or maybe go out with friends.”
Me: “Why? Why do they do it all day?”
Anthony: “Well, that’s because most everything else isn’t as fun. Or, I guess that’s what they think.”
Me: “So, what are some of the things Dad and I do for you to get you off your “media”? What are your favourite things to do instead that we help out with?”
Anthony: “Well, you help out with it all. It’s all you. Without you, I would just be like everyone else.”
Me: “Do you wish we gave you more “media” time?”
Anthony: “Yes.” (Accompanied by an eye roll and a shifty smile)
Me: “Do you think later on when you are older, that you’ll thank us?”
Anthony: “One day when I’m, like 40? Yeah. Probably.”

We realized early on that without our effort as parents, media would consume him. And so, here is his list of things that are his favourite alternatives to media. As a quick side note, he is not a sports kid, or I would have added that. When people ask
him what he plays, he looks them square in the eye and says “violin”.

Bikes, skateboards and all things outdoors with wheels: get on and go out.

A backpack full of snacks and gear: head to the nearest green spot independently or camping/hiking with us. A family hike does wonders. Pack them an inexpensive camera. It’s so interesting to find out what holds their gaze.

Books: from comic strips, to graphic novels to Game of Thrones. Find something they will read. Trust me. They will thank you for it.

Party food for friends: Anthony’s friends are always welcome at our house. Even if we as parents are busy we try very hard never to say “no” to having friends over. Why? Because when they are not safely in my basement, they could be anywhere else. All party snacks and non alcoholic beverages provided by us. Believe me when I say this is not an easy or inexpensive task.

Local Rec Centre activities guide: we are extremely lucky to have a centre in our small town. Swimming and skating with friends are always popular choices as well as special events.

I didn’t add it to the picture because Anthony didn’t mention it, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway. He loves projects. Anything he can make. Check out our Instagram feed for pictures of Anthony and his projects. Favourites have been a catapult and a water purifier.

So there it is. If you want your child to get off their device and go out into the world, you have to give them the keys to do it.

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The Boy

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I think we have all had a moment in our life that affected us so profoundly, that we replay it in our minds trying to understand it better. I have had my share, but before last Friday those moments never had me questioning my parenting skills, and my values.

It was in the afternoon. I was in one of the company vehicles being driven back to our building. We passed a large group of kids. I didn’t really pay attention. Schools get out early here on Friday afternoons. I texted Anthony (who we lovingly refer to as The Boy) to ask how his day was.

What followed in the next brief passage of time has forever changed me as a parent.

“Ok.” Was his reply followed by “I tried to FaceTime you.”

This was extremely odd. I texted him that I had been out of cell service range and asked what was up.

“There’s a big fight going on behind McDonald’s.” Was his immediate reply.
Still travelling in the company vehicle with all eyes on me my reaction was anger. It must have been what we had passed. Why oh why was he over at McDonald’s.

He phoned. What followed was a pouring out of himself. His voice unsteady, tears threatening. He was at home. He had learned of the fight at school like everyone else. His friends had wanted to go. He had tried and tried to talk them out of it, but they wouldn’t listen. They were on there way there now, maybe they had already gotten there. He stopped to breathe. My question was fast. “Why are you telling me?”
His answer was faster. “I thought you could call the police, or get some help….I don’t want my friends to get hurt.”

And that was it. That was all it took for my heart to skip a beat, and my stomach to jump into my chest.

I told him I would call, but people looked to be scattering when we were driving past. His response was “Oh, it’s too late.” Then he hung up.

When I got home that night I hugged him and hugged him. We told him how proud we were of him, not to go, how he did everything right. I apologized for thinking he was there, for reacting too quickly.
It has been a few days. By some miracle, no one was badly injured, but there was police involvement, and one of his close friends is going to be charged (as a minor).

This is the first event of its kind to leave a mark on Anthony. We live in a small, peaceful little town. I know that he is still questioning himself. Why couldn’t he talk them out of going, things of that nature. He and I have talked too. He is 13, and like any child that age he is mostly amazing with a little bit of “pull your hair out”. He could have easily gone last Friday. So easily that that was my first assumption. But he didn’t. Which leaves me questioning too. How, when we have faltered with other pieces of parenting, how could we have possibly managed to get this right.