In this fascinating piece on cutting the digital cord, Huffington Post senior reporter Ann Brenoff describes what happened after her son, 17, dropped his iPhone in the toilet and she could no longer text him about things like a lunch left at home. She feels liberated by letting him live his life.
But she also casually notes that while she is no longer “fixing” everything for him, of COURSE she has been spying on him forever — that’s different.
Spying is such a harsh term, don’t you think? I prefer to view the many GPS tracking devices and location apps on my son’s phone as simply the parenting tools that have proved worthy as we trudge through his teenage years. Thanks to these digital tools, I am able to know where he is, where he’s been, how long he stayed and how fast he drove to get there. I can also tell whether he texted while driving and how many times he slammed on the brakes. He is 17.
I can tell where he goes not just in real life, but also where he goes online. I follow his digital footsteps and know all about decoy apps and the chat rooms I don’t want him visiting. I can monitor his digital life and see if he is posting anything inappropriate that could come back to haunt him down the road, and I can quickly shut it down. I’m on top of apps that are frequented by bullies, and know what happens to kids who get bullied.
I am all over this. And I do it in the name of protecting my son. It isn’t him I don’t trust; it’s the rest of you.
Here’s the rest.
My question: How common is this kind of parental behavior?
I’m not talking about texting a kid, “Don’t forget your guitar lesson is cancelled!” I’m talking about shadowing them to see what they’re doing, who they’re talking to, and where they are, on the assumption that the world is so dangerous, they can’t be out there without someone shadowing their every move.
Is this the new normal?
If so, it suggests that parents have been sold an enormous lie: Mom or dad, you are not just there to listen, love and guide your child. You are there to assist a young person so incompetent, threatened or fragile, they need intensive, constant help. Your child is in the equivalent of the ICU, always on the verge of a disaster you alone can prevent.
This is what our society has done to parents: Injected them with terror just to sell us some apps.
So tell us, please: How common is this fear? How common is it to track even teens online? What hath the push for perfect society wrought? – L