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The Father Factor


Dave Taylor

Dave is a Colorado-based father's rights advocate and single father to three fabulous children, now 17, 13 and 10. You can read about their exploits and adventures at and you can get in touch with him at
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How Can I Keep My Teen Safe with Their New Smartphone?

If you're a dad or serve dads of teens, they already have a smartphone of their own or have been asking for many months, hoping to join the digital, always connected generation with their own iPhone or Android phone. Kudos to them, but not so fast, because while children eagerly insist that they’re ready for adult responsibilities, they really aren’t, cognitively or emotionally, and that includes the serious responsibility of having a tiny computer in their pocket.

How Can I Keep My Teen Safe with Their New Smartphone? tech and teen

Let's be candid: the Internet is a quite terrifying place in spots and there are quite legitimate risks that they'll face on a daily basis. For boys, it includes being exposed to — or actively seeking out — hardcore pornography that could truly scar him and affect his perception of healthy intimate relationships (there’s some harrowing research just coming out on this subject). There are also hate groups and even terrorist organizations who are learning to master the “grooming” process through online chat groups and social media.

For girls, there's the challenge of a healthy self-image which can be destroyed by the cruel candor of the online world. No girl is skinny enough for the masses and other children (and adults) aren't shy about sharing their opinions in a blunt, vocal fashion. When she posts her first selfie and is told she's ugly, fat and stupid looking, it can permanently scar, a particular form of cyberbullying that's way too common with girls as each tries to find their own identity and come to terms with their physical appearance, both what they can change and what they cannot. 

Cyberbullying really is at epidemic level in the modern digital world of the adolescent. This can manifest as your child being the victim of a non-stop stream of hostile, belittling, taunting and vitriol, of course, but it can also come out as your child seeking to be accepted by the “cool kids” and joining in on the harassment and bullying of another child. And this isn't just the hostile teens who act out in this fashion either, because I can hear you saying "not my little angel".

Okay, so that’s some of the down side of them going online with a smartphone. The upside is that mobile phones offer access and safety, whether it’s your child being able to check in with you after school so you know where they are at any point of the day or them being able to call you to say they want to come home from a party that’s starting to get out of hand. I've had my teens do just that more than once, one time with my daughter not even knowing exactly where she was in town and us having to use a mapping program to figure it out. We were both thankful she could reach out and I could come get her.

Smartphones are also really fun. There are a remarkable number of engaging, stimulating and entertaining games available on modern phones, whether your teen wants an iPhone or Android phone. Not enough diversion? There's email. Snapchat. Instagram. Tumblr. Texting. YouTube. Netflix. Social Media. The number of ways that people can connect through smart devices is quite astonishing nowadays, with more social networks and options appearing every week.

Which is, again, one of the dangers. Children really aren't the best at managing their time and moderating influences so that they have a healthy balance of tech and non-tech time in their lives. Homework suffers. Relationships suffer. They become withdrawn and sneaky. Happens again and again, even with the most enlightened and loving families. Girls and boys.

So if you really are going to travel down this path, I suggest that you come up with a behavioral contract before any purchase is made, one that emphasizes that the smartphone is a privilege granted by you parents and that it continues to be available based on your child's ability to use it responsibly and meet the terms of the contract. 

I would also suggest having a set amount of time the phone is available each day, that it is powered down each night at a rational time (perhaps 8pm or so, at least an hour before bedtime so its use doesn’t interrupt healthy sleep cycles), and that parents are always aware of any and all passwords set for the phone and individual applications. And occasionally, sit down and go through their phone book with them, text messages and friend lists on social media. Who are these people and why is your child letting them into his or her life? A healthy dose of skepticism is a smart lesson in this digital era.

It really is a tricky world out there. For adolescents and technology, there’s a lot of dangerous territory and it’s up to us parents to be smart and look out for their best interests, not just hand them the device and assume it’s all going to work out for the best. Let them slowly earn their digital freedom, but in measured steps and with you helping ensure their safety along the way...good luck and be careful!

What's one piece of advice you've found helpful when it comes to smartphones and teens? 

The Father Factor Blog  

Dave Taylor has two teen children, an 18yo daughter and 15yo son who both have smartphones. Oh, and an 11yo who is clamoring for a smartphone of her own. You can read about his adventures as a single father on his popular site or find him on Twitter as @DaveTaylor.

Why is Daniel Murphy's Paternity Leave a Story?

I realize that there's some inherent level of stupidity in "viral" discussions, but still, what seems to be behind the latest argument is surprisingly anti-fatherhood.

daniel-murphy-ny-metsEarlier this week New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy exercised a clause in his Major League Baseball contract that allows him to skip a few games for paternity leave so he could be present at his first child's birth, and subsequently stay with his wife and new baby for a few days before he goes back to his grueling pro athlete schedule.

In response, a couple of sports commentators at WFAN radio in New York City not only criticized him on air for not prioritizing his obligation to the team properly (they apparently think paternity leave is stupid and not for "real men"), but even suggested that his wife should have had a c-section so the birth would have been more conveniently scheduled between Mets games.

Obviously, these two guys are chowderheads just looking for publicity (which I'm trying to avoid by not naming them here), but it still raises the question: why is this a story that's gotten any attention in the first place?

What really bothers me is that we are still at a point where men need to lobby for paternity leave and where other men are unsupportive when a father decides to take some time off from his job to be with his wife and newborn child... and that we are still at a point where this is even a discussion at all.

I believe Murphy is absolutely right to make this decision regardless of the consequences for the NY Mets baseball team, and that the WFAN commentators are just showing that they deserve our pity and our sympathy for being knuckle-dragging primates in the modern world.

What's your take? Should the needs of the team ever outweigh family, and if so, when?

And congratulations to Daniel and his wife on the addition of a new family member.

The Challenge of Becoming a Single Father

No one goes to the altar expecting to end up divorced, but it's a distressingly common occurrence nonetheless. 

Couples get together with the very best of intentions, full of hopes and dreams, white picket fences, 2.5 kids, or even a penthouse uptown. A life together, a future as a team, and perhaps some little people added to the mix.

father_holding_son_arms_stretchThat's what was running through my head when I walked up the aisle almost 18 years ago, anxious, teary and excited to take the next step in my life with the woman I loved.

Then we had one, two, three children and somehow bringing tiny little people into the mix didn't make our relationship any easier, didn't help us find a common ground and get along smoothly. Every parent knows this, but you have to find out yourself anyway: having a child is hugely stressful on a relationship.

We tried to make it work. We talked, we tried different approaches to parenting, we worked with counselors, we went to workshops and seminars. But that fateful day came to pass where we just realized that, kids or no kids, we were really not making it as a couple and were both perpetually unhappy and resentful.

So we split up. Theoretically, to have a break from each other, but I could read the writing on the wall and started preparing myself for what ended up being a long, contentious divorce. 

Single parenting is hard. Single fathering is even harder.

I suddenly found myself a single dad, with children who were 10, 6 and 3. And while I'd always been an active, involved dad, it was a completely different experience when I didn't have someone to help out if I was getting frustrated, was tired, not feeling well, or just had a vision of things going one way while they were quite clearly headed in another direction.

Like going from tag-team wrestling to having to take on the other opponent solo. Worse, in a lot of situations, far from "having your back", your ex can be eagerly waiting to point out your failings, digging that knife in just a bit deeper, while telling the children "daddy has issues, but at least you have me."

Let me be blunt. It's not easy being a single parent.

I think it's tougher on us men, however, because we aren't raised to nurture and be empathetic. In fact, Western society does its best through a culture of shaming, bullying, crass images of masculinity and dismal media portrayals of fathers to teach us men that we're just not going to be successful parents.

We don't tote babies around when we're little, we aren't the one hired to babysit the twins down the street when we're in our teens, we're instead pushed to physical activities, sports, video games and other activities that emphasize the testosterone factor rather than help us learn how to balance it with the more traditionally "feminine" aspects of humanity.

And so retrospectively, it's no surprise to me that the first year of my single parenthood was damn hard. I had always been the disciplinarian in our household, the one who actually had - and enforced - rules and behaviors. Suddenly life was about a lot more than just being the drill instructor and I didn't know how to handle it. A crying toddler? A grumpy daughter because a boy snubbed her? A boy devastated because he failed to make the winning shot? All new because I couldn't rely on mom to be the sympathetic parent.

It was rocky, and there were definitely moments I look back on with great sadness and disappointment. I could have done better, I could have handled them better. Or perhaps not. Perhaps the journey of man to loving father does require some turbulence along the way.

Interestingly, my ex's household was chaos for years because as a single mom she faced the opposite challenge, that she's wonderfully sympathetic and therefore rarely had rules and certainly hated to enforce them or impose consequences for violations. Her household was a zoo, with no bed times, no meal times, all replaced by lots of mom/kid cuddling and sharing.

Time has a way of healing and improving things, and after almost 7 years of flying solo, I've learned a few things about finding the balance between innate male reactions and the need for a child to have a parent who is present, who is tough when needed but who is also sympathetic. Sometimes a hug and a treat are the best response while other occasions require a time out or extra chore. 

What I will share with any man who is just stepping into this new world of single parenting is to take a deep breath and let go of your expectations. Parenting really isn't about tomorrow as much as it is about this very moment. Rules are good, but their little hearts, their expectations, their dreams are what it's all about, so pay attention. Listen. Don't "fix" things that don't need fixing. And have fun. It took me years to be able to really just relax and enjoy my children. 

And cut yourself slack. It's a tough job, this solo parenting thing. You'll make mistakes, but with positive intention and love, you'll all make it through. If it's going really poorly? Reach out and get some help. No shame in that, brother.

The Father Factor Blog

This is a guest post by Dave Taylor. Dave is a Colorado-based father's rights advocate and single father to three fabulous children, now 17, 13 and 10. You can read about their exploits and adventures at and you can get in touch with him at

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