Anyone who has been converting oxygen into carbon dioxide in the last ten years has watched technology take over vast areas of the world. Many people have become addicted to the technological gadgets in their lives: cell phones, iPods, texting, IMing…. Good grief, right now I’m sitting in a waiting room typing this article on my laptop, an older gentleman who is waiting is talking on his phone, a middle-aged woman is texting with thumbs flying, a TV is on, but no one is paying attention to it, and three people have already been called for over the intercom. Not one person in the waiting room has even looked at another person, let alone “communicated” with them. We have started to let our technology tools break down communication between the very people in which we share a room.
What does this have to do with teen mentoring? Teens are at the forefront of the technology brigade. This has manifested itself in both good and bad ways: As adults, we are able to keep in touch with our teenagers better; however, teens have become so addicted to their phones and other gadgets, they refuse to turn them off when it is appropriate. Except for extreme circumstances, teenagers do not need to have cell phones with them and on while they are at school. Likewise, neither do the teachers.
When you are a mentor and you are meeting with your teens, be an example and show them the respect they deserve by turning off your phone. That does not mean just turning it on vibrate; Turn it OFF! The same goes for your kids. They are not doctors, police officers or members of the clergy on call. They do not need to be reached 24/7. Show your teenagers that the time you have with them is sacred and you are not willing to disrespect your time with them by leaving on your phone. In all my years of working with teens, I had my cell phone on for only ONE reason: The day my sister was in labor with my nephew. Other than that extreme circumstance, my phone was always off.
Believe it or not, life existed before cell phones. If some emergency happened and I needed to be contacted, whoever needed to get ahold of me could call the building in which I was meeting my teens and someone could actually come and get me to let me know I had an emergency phone call. The same certainly applies to your kids.
It definitely makes people rethink what an “emergency” is when they cannot just speed dial someone’s cell phone at the drop of a hat. As far as teens not having their cell phones on during the school day, it is nice when you, as the adult, have a guarantee that a teen’s mother is not going to be texting her daughter asking if she wants to skip 4th and 5th periods just so they can to go out to lunch….