Each generation has its own set of gaps. My daughter, just like I did, thinks her parents are embarrassingly outdated and totally lame.
Wait, do kids these days say "lame" anymore?
Yet no matter how difficult I and my siblings were to our parents, my mom and dad had it easy compared to modern day parents like me. How do I know? Because we had a family phone.
When I was a kid and I wanted to talk to my friends they had to call my house where my mother would answer the phone and ask, "Who's calling?" It was impossible to have a telephone conversation with my friends outside of my nosey parents' realm of authority. Sure I'd stretch the cord (remember when telephones were connected to the wall?) into the hallway and try and get out of earshot but even then no conversation was private. That lack of privacy meant I edited my conversations. I didn't cuss or lie or gossip for fear of being overheard. If I had my mother would have yanked the phone out of my ear and hung up on my friend or worse, picked up the other line to listen in!
Today kids don't use house phones; they have cell phones. Which means it is virtually impossible for parents to eavesdrop. Which means kids don't have to use their filter. Which means there is an awful lot of inappropriateness going on.
For starters, because my child doesn't have to go through me anymore to have phone or text conversations, I really have no idea who she is talking to, when and how much. My mom used to enforce a 'no phone calls after 9:00 p.m' rule. She'd even answer the phone and tell my friends who called too late that I was unavailable. The best I can do now is confiscate my child's phone. And trust me I do. I paid for that phone, I pay for the ongoing service to that phone, I will therefore have 24/7 access to the phone.
So technically I can see whenever I want who my kid is talking to by opening her inbox and going through her calls but those tricky teenagers are smarter and quicker than they look. As soon as I ask for the cell phone she's magically deleted off all the texts in the nano second it takes to land in the palm of my hand.
This concerns me for two reasons. First, it means my child is spending more time trying to undo what has already been said rather than focusing on what she should do and worse, I wonder what she is hiding.
It gets even more complicated when we talk about smart phones. These Internet accessible phones post updates and pictures to social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. If I can barely supervise my child's personal conversations how am I to be expected to supervise her entire online persona?
Parenting a child in this modern day of social media and personal devices is a challenge. Most of us barely know how to operate our own cell phones; it is overwhelming to us to think we need to take the time to learn our children's devices as well. But our uncomfortability with the advancement of technology cannot deter us from our responsibilities as parents. Just like I supervise my daughter in real life, I am responsible to chaperon her virtual world as well.
I get that I am not a policeman. I don’t have time for all that investigating anyway but a parent I will always be. I do however have one piece of advice for any of my daughter's potential suitors. If you want to date my kid don’t expect an invitation for dinner or a meet and greet with the family. I'll just take a quick peek of the boy’s Twitter feed. It will tell me all I need to know about what sort of gentleman he is, or isn't. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That's why!
I'd love to hear from you: do you monitor your child's telephone usage & online feeds?
(This article originally appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, a GateHouse Media company).