Raising digital teenagers is hard work especially when today’s parents did not grow up with the internet. As a school counselor and a mom, I often hear that this leaves parents feeling they are ill equipped to cross the bridge between their experiences and the digital childhood of their offspring. We live in an age of sexting, frightening online challenges, cyberbullying, and digital footprints which can follow middle schoolers to college. Less dramatic is the typical struggle over amount of screen time and how that time is spent. All of this leaves adults veering wildly between over-policing children or giving up supervision altogether. The question remains; how can we keep our kids educated and safe?
A few years ago, my wife and I traveled to Israel. One day while at the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, a bus filled with Israeli soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces pulled into the parking lot. I asked our tour guide what they were doing. He explained that soldiers are toured around the entire country so they learn the history, culture, beliefs, geography, and people of Israel. He quipped, “Too many soldiers go into battle, and they don’t know what they’re fighting for. We make sure that doesn’t happen in Israel.”
The trouble with middle school is that it is full of middle schoolers! Yes, middle school can be a time of awkwardness and self-doubt but it can also be a wonderful time of transformation toward independence. The amount of change, development and growth that happens during middle school is just as much as it was from birth to age three! Navigating this can be challenging for both teens and parents.