Here’s something that’s we’re finding a bit tricky to navigate: what’s a reasonable and fair policy for text messaging for a 14yo 8th grader?
My initial reaction is of the “give them enough rope” variety, allowing her to text without much in the way of constraints (other than time-based) and see if she violates our rules. Problem with that is that it assumes a certain level of self-control and time management that might be a bit excessive to lay on a teen girl in modern culture.
On the other hand, somewhere along the way in her teen experience, I feel like she needs to learn these essential life skills.
And therein lies the dilemma…
I attended a parent evening at my kids school a few days ago where we talked about this very subject, and it was fascinating to hear that the parents ranged from one friend who allows her daughter complete, unfettered, unmonitored access to texting, while another shuddered at even the idea of his child using text messages on their cellphone. Yet another shared a sexting experience that certainly gave me pause: what if my daughter’s already received some ghastly juvenile text message from some boy who thinks he’s being funny but is really just aiming for shock value? Eeek.
A part of me now wants to occasionally peek at my daughter’s cellphone and read her text messages, but I also feel like that’s an invasion of privacy and that’s a different issue. At least I can keep track of who she’s texting and what time’s she’s texting by going to wireless.att.com, but I have to say that it’d be nice if they presented the information better.
But I want to ask you, reader. Do your kids have text messaging capability on their cellphones? If so, how do you manage or monitor it?
I know a lot of parents don’t agree with my viewpoint, but we allow our son (14yo) unlimited texting and respect his privacy. I do not (and will not) check his text messages. Same will go with my daughter when she’s a bit older.
For one thing, I feel like texting is just one avenue of communication. I don’t spy on my son when he has actual conversations with his friends (girls or boys). I don’t listen in on his phone calls. Why should I do it with text conversations just because they are easier to spy on?
That said, I did have a talk with my son and his friends about texting and privacy. My primary points were:
* Avoid saying things in a text that you aren’t willing to say to someone’s face. Same goes for being on the Internet. Just remember there are real people on the other end.
* Even though I don’t monitor your text messages, don’t assume that all parents make that same decision. Assume, instead, that the moms and dads of everyone you text are reading your messages.
* Be respectful to the women in your lives. But I deliver that message regularly and it isn’t texting-specific.
In the end, I trust him. My take on trust is that it is something you start with and can lose, not something you start without and have to earn. And so far, my son has given me no reason for mistrust.
(my prior comment post launched off and was lost: oopps!)
The first sign of the approaching storm about to consume our family was the first parent-teacher conferences of Sophomore year in high school. Four of six teachers advised us that our honor-role daughter’s declining grades were due to the “out-of-control” texting in their classrooms. They pleaded with us to urge the administration to enforce BVSD policy that prohibits use of cell phones during school hours. We held numerous meetings with the Principal, School Resource Police Officer, and the District Assistant Administrator in charge of the policy. All refused to enforce the policy because, they said, some parents wished to text their children during the day, and some teachers wanted to also text during class hours.
This uncontrolled use of cell phone texting in the high school led to a deepening nightmare for our family. Using our account at the Verizon website, we began to control our daughter’s cell phone use, turning off her service during school hours and after 10pm. Yet, with everyone else in class texting, the social addiction is overwhelming; our daughter bought another cell phone to circumvent our controls. As her grades continued to decline and our sweet daughter became more hostile toward us, we began to see the hints of text bullying, widespread sexting, and drug dealing utilizing cell phones in class, during class hours. Like most parents, I had assumed that my high-achieving daughter would have been the last to ever be involved in such things. Like most parents, I taught respect for privacy within our family, and I trusted in her incredible intelligence to protect her from bad choices. But the peer pressure behind this technology is overwhelming for a teen new to high school culture. Not being connected, not being linked in to the social network is like social suicide in the high school world. It is indeed, a collective addiction that feeds and facilitates the other addictions that run rampant in our public schools.
And those similes became frighteningly apt for us and for many families. After angry suicide threats, we intervened and placed our child on hold in a facility. Her cell phone was confiscated and the full truth of her desperate plight fell on us like a maelstrom as we downloaded her text logs. She had been both a victim and a victimizer. She had experienced abuse, harassment, and threats that would drive many to suicide ideation. Very many are driven there in fact. Her texts revealed that this is truly a ubiquitous form of teen terrorism, and is extremely widespread indeed. Her cell phone contact lists read like the school yearbook. She was extremely well socially connected, and those connections were sinister for all.
We had to remove her from this terrible chaos, and now she is thriving in a private boarding school, on a horse ranch in another state. She had to be entirely removed from her world and peer culture in order to be separated from that cell phone and all the insanity it forced her to be connected to. And now, she tells us how happy she is to be away from it, and from Facebook and the frightening burden these media were imposing on her life by forcing her to interact on a constant, competitive basis with an unavoidable and unhealthy social culture.
Do I condemn cell phones, texting and social media for teens? No, as a Social Media Marketeer, I do not. My regret is that I did not have the ability to tightly control and monitor my child’s use of this technology, and that I did not more thoroughly mentor her on the subject. My excuse would be that she was far more savvy in the use of the technology than me. As long as school district administrators refuse to enforce District policies prohibiting the use of cell phones during school hours, these kids will always be able to out maneuver parental control, and so, criminal activities including drug dealing and sexting -which is indeed, child pornography- will continue to be enabled by these administrators in their schools, and now, with their full knowledge.
Posted by Fred Martin at April 7, 2011 1:18 PM