Thursday, March 08, 2012

Tweens and Teens and Today's Technology

Simpler Times
I am officially the mother of two teenagers. What's more, I am the mother of two teenagers in 2012. It's a really different ball of wax being a parent in 2012 than it was when I was growing up. When I was a teenager, the Internet was brand new, at least having access in the home. Cell phones were still those gigantic blocky things with terrible reception, astronomical bills, and I thought only the rich and famous had them. Social media wasn't even a seed in someone's imagination 20 years ago. If you wanted to call someone a lying bitch, you had to either do it to their face or call from your clear, plastic phone, stomping about your room only so far as the cord would allow you to go. You certainly couldn't do it through the considerable buffer of text messages. Being a parent today has definite, unique challenges.

As such, I would love to know how other parents handle the Internet and cell phone rules as it pertains to their kids. Boys, girls, tweens or teen.

These are our rules:

  1. No texting/calling at school unless it's an emergency
  2. An adult must be in the room when kids are on the Internet (this is really hard to do IMO, but I do my best.)
  3. Until they can pay for their own phone and their own line, there is no such thing as privacy.
  4. The parents have all passwords for e-mail, Facebook, phones, etc.
  5. Failure to comply results in loss of access. 

Right now, the Oldest is the only one with a cell phone. We've tried twice with the youngest, but with her various disabilities, she keeps breaking her phones and we've decided that she isn't at a place where she can handle the responsibility. This is good for us in that we don't have to worry about her breaking, losing, or having her phone stolen. It's bad because I like having the ability of being able to get in touch with my kids at anytime, anywhere and vice versa (assuming they actually answer when I call). It's also bad because we don't have a land line which means that the Youngest doesn't get any phone calls and when her friends text, the texts come to me which is inconvenient and annoying. Still, we haven't been able to come up with a viable solution so until she matures, we don't have another option.

The Oldest has a cell. In fact, she has an iPhone which is yet another ball of wax when compared to a non-smart phone. She averages 2000 texts a month and I don't know how many talk minutes. We never go over our minutes so I don't pay attention to minute usage. We have unlimited texting and data though. It's easy to restrict access to different things with the iPhone and Verizon also has usage controls which we have on her line. However, even when I have her texting and calling restricted during school hours, she still has access to the Internet on her phone via 3G. I don't think it's a viable option for me to restrict access to apps in the morning before school and then lift those restrictions after school, every day of the week. If there's an option for time restrictions on apps, I haven't found it.

When she's grounded from her phone, I restrict all texting and calling except to her "safe numbers" which are her dad and me, 24/7. I periodically and randomly check her texts and FB messages. Still, I'm not perfect and things get by me all the time. I like the Oldest having her phone because we play games together and whatnot (and I'm a gadget whore) but at the same time, I think a smart phone gives her too much freedom and too many ways to get into trouble.

How do other parents do it? I'm beginning to second guess myself and I'm wondering if I'm too strict and controlling or too passive when it comes to my daughters and their Internet/cell phone usage. I'd love to hear other opinions, good or bad. Call me, leave a comment, message me on FB. Just don't text. This isn't a conversation for texting, lol. ;)

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