My eldest daughter – a go-getter with her father’s social butterfly tendencies and my sensitivity – asked me every so subtly the other night when she would be getting her own phone. She was nothing if not strategic in her approach. She broached the subject as I was putting her to bed – the time of day that seems to provoke the most intimate mother-daughter conversations. The time of day when she seems comfortable enough to bare her 11 year-old soul and I seem most receptive (dare I say gullible?) to special requests.
“Mommy, when can I have my own phone?” she asked sweetly. I could see the wheels turning and thought, “Here we go again.” This wasn’t the first time we’d had this discussion. (And it’s probably not the first time I’ve blogged about how to be a good parent and make the right decisions about my children.) My more flippant answer has typically been, “When you can pay for the data plan,” but the real answer, of course, runs deeper.
It’s a can of worms I assume most parents want to keep from opening for as long as possible. My children have never had their own devices, and likely won’t have smart devices until they are well into high school. My husband and I are always home, and so don’t need to equip our girls with ways to stay in touch. We both believe that internet access in the hands of middle schoolers and even some high schoolers will do no one any favors. I have, in fact, seen such access seriously compromise the innocence of children, and so want no part in giving mine access to lines of communication that once opened cannot be closed or forgotten.
That being said, I have considered outfitting my kids with a child-friendly smart watch that allows them to text a few designated numbers – namely, ours. The device also features tracking via a companion app for parents. At first, I liked the idea of knowing where my child was, especially if sleepovers ever became something of interest. (Thankfully, the allure of their own beds has won out over staying over at someone else’s house.) But the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became with the idea. My children aren’t family pets in need of chips. They are young people who are learning the ways of the world under the tutelage of their parents. I believe a certain level of trust is inherently necessary between parent and child. Until proven otherwise (and I realize that day might come), I will trust my children to be where they say they are because I know I have done everything in my power to raise them to be trustworthy young ladies.
Wondering if I was perhaps a bit naive, I posed this question to my Facebook friends: What are your thoughts on tracking/keeping tabs on your kids via apps on their smart devices?
The answers ran the gamut, from, “In this scary day and age, don't see anything wrong with it. But then again, my kids don't even have their own phones yet.” to “You gotta trust your kids, but ... you also need to do everything possible to keep them safe.”
As parents, my husband and I are definitely learning as we go – especially when it comes to the relationship our children have with technology. Sadly, it’s not an area of parenting I can ask my own parents for advice in. Thus far, we’ve learned that, as in most things, children thrive with boundaries, limits, and a certain amount of supervision. While they are in our home, I will happily provide all three.