Let’s be perfectly clear. When you become a parent, your job description cannot be Googled. Your pediatrician doesn’t hand you a handbook. Here’s my one big piece of advice – don’t try and be your child’s “friend.” She or he will have grandparents, cousins and friends of their own some day to complain to about all the stupid rules they grew up with; no belly rings, no tattoos; no crying in public – what you didn’t have those rules?
If you’re lucky, your adult child may become a friend. Someday they will thank you for those rules! But I can tell you one thing I’m really glad we didn’t have when my kids were little – smart phones! Because teenagers have been breaking our rules since time immemorial and sneaking out of windows in the middle of the night. Only right here in Blackburg, VA, a thirteen year old girl, a vulnerable liver transplant recipient, arranged on her phone to meet with two VA Tech students outside her window in the pre-dawn light.
And after finding her body across the state line, prosecutors found out about her murderers, both student predators, David Eisenhauer, 18 and Natalie Keepers, 19, by searching their cell history:
But the prosecutor said messages on the girl’s phone led to the suspects, and accused the college freshmen of deciding together in a fast-food restaurant that Eisenhauer would cut her throat. Defense lawyers argued that Keepers’ mental health could unravel behind bars.” http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/state/both-tech-students-plotted-to-kill-girl-prosecutor-says/article_0ea7ac28-cbb3-11e5-8e92-ef91c22cfffe.html
Now this young college woman, Keepers, someone with such promise who wanted to study aerospace engineering, is asking the court to allow her to take ALL her anti-anxiety medicine in jail…so she can get a tattoo?! Of a semi-colon…maybe she’ll write the next Orange is the New Black screenplay?
I had never heard of the App Eisenhauer and his victim were using to disguise their communication, but Kik is basically a way to disguise messages and photos, so naturally teens love it, it’s virtually impossible for parents to monitor. And there’s the problem. Because if I did have a teenager now, you can bet I’d have all their passwords and be randomly monitoring them! I may masquerade as a liberal, free-thinker type, but my inward tiger mom would take over for sure. And I’m not just talking about girls, young boys can be fodder for digital predators too.
“When you give your kid a phone, ‘it’s almost like taking your front door off your house'” http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/02/04/kik-messaging-app-scrutinized-wake-va-teens-murder/79826224/
Last year it was Snapchat, and you can be sure next year there will be a new messaging App for teens, a way to evade their parents’ eyes and rules. While we were in Puerto Rico, we visited a man who was expecting his young grandchildren to arrive soon from Maryland. I looked at his tropical oasis with a beautiful, completely open, unfenced pool. Wasn’t this a hazard? He said of course they kept eagle eyes on the children, but he only had three rules for them:
- Be a good listener
- Be careful
- Make good decisions
My brother Michael had a saying for his kids, “Always do the right and proper thing.” In this day and age, when young women may now have to register for the draft along with young men, http://bigstory.ap.org/a3a36a7b1fa74379910088d9220994b8 I would only add one more rule about smart phones.
Do something, anything people. Put them down at dinner? Leave them charging in the living room and not next to their bed? Delay giving your child a phone for as long as humanly possible? If we parents and grandparents can’t model sane, non-addictive cell phone usage, why should we expect the same from them?
The snow is almost gone, the mountains are back into focus. I am heartsick for those parents. I’d like to not write about anymore missing girls, or some stranger luring them out of their house through an open window.