PATSY BRUMFIELD: Phone use another test for parenting



News headlines often remind me of life’s difficulties for parents of teenagers, who whether they say it or not, are looking for leadership as they fumble around for the people they will become.

I raise this issue because of this week’s news that a Florida sheriff is considering criminal charges against two young women’s parents after the teens, one only 12, and others bullied a female classmate until she jumped off a tower and killed herself.

Obviously, boys aren’t the only bullies.

And so, the question arises: How do parents prevent this cyberbullying?

Electronic misbehavior is no different from physical misbehavior – it’s just a new thing.

Here’s the deal: Parents must communicate to their children what the rules are and enforce consequences when the rules are broken. It’s that simple, yet is it?

When parents want to be “friends” with their teenagers, who is surprised that confusion can occur with both sides about disciplinary roles.

This Florida sheriff wants to hold someone in authority accountable for the teenager’s death, at least accountable for the inexcusable behavior of the girls. Who else is there to look to except their parents?

Oh, somebody is going to say, “I can’t control what happens with my child on electronic media.” Don’t kid yourself. You can control almost everything relating to your child. That is your job.

First of all, should a 12-year-old have a cellphone? If the answer is yes, then firm rules must be established and followed for the continued use of a communication device likely paid for by the parents. Parents must tell their children what isn’t acceptable. Otherwise, how are they to know?

Bullying is unacceptable, whether it’s in person or via electronics.

It’s simple enough to check what’s going on with that phone, just like your home computers. First, let it be known that you are going to check its use regularly. Then do so. If the rules have been broken relating to use, take away the phone or computer for a time.

When behavior has been good, say so too. Parenting is not an easy job. It’s fraught with difficult decisions and, sometimes, with emotional consequences. But it’s about showing your children the right path to a successful life.

It’s also about setting boundaries. Children really want their independence just a little at a time. A completely open door leads nowhere but to trouble.

Part of setting boundaries is saying “no.” Children should have limited access to lots of things, even television and the food they eat. Too much of anything is bad.

Life in bite-size pieces is easier to swallow and digest.

Frankly, parents must realize that one of these days, when their children are adults, they will have opportunities for friendship with each other.

Indeed, one difficult time for a parent is to learn when to let go and to treat grownup children as adults, who can make their own rules because you have taught them how. But it’s one step at a time, until you get there.

Patsy R. Brumfield writes aThursday column. Contact her at(662) 678-1596 or

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