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A Parent's Right to Just Say No

Updated on November 14, 2013
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Remember when?

Back in the day (you remember the day, don't you?) when a teenager wanted to communicate with the outside world, chances are they did so on a telephone landlocked in the middle of the house. They could only take the conversation as far as the coiled cord would allow. There were time limits, party lines, and bedtimes to which they adhered. Not to mention house rules in terms of language, who they could call, and if they were even allowed to use the phone at all.

I am certain some of them even invented secret codes and developed a sixth sense alerting them to approaching parental units.

Now, of course, communication - okay, okay, social networking - takes place anywhere and anywhen we, or our young counterparts, want. And, much to the dismay of the aging immigrant population (that's us), the land of technology natives has a new lawmaker - the teenager.

Subsection T

When I was maybe 15 or 16, I remember talking on the kitchen phone, which incidentally was orange, and using the word "hunk" to describe, well, a "hunk" at school. My mother never flew so fast across the kitchen. Not only was that conversation over, but subsequent phone calls were tricky to negotiate.

Today, we often don't even know who our kids are messaging, let alone what they are saying. With apps such as Snapchat making it possible for people to send messages and photos that disappear within seconds, there is often no record or way to track what our children are doing either online, or on their phones.

In a recent conversation with a parent, I was told that she didn't feel she had the right to check her 13 year old daughter's phone. Wasn't her daughter entitled to some privacy?

Here I answer, in all my opinionated infamy - uh, no!

There is, nor ever has been, a manual for parenting bestowed on newly anointed parents. But, if there was one, section 13, subsection t would certainly read: You, as a parent, have the right and responsibility to know where your child is and who they are with at all times. It helps keep them safe! It helps them know they can depend on us and makes them feel secure.


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Pratfalls of "Right to Privacy"

We most likely can begin to pinpoint this teen takeover to the time period in our history when parents ran out of ideas for holiday gifts. Is it not so much easier to decide your nine year old really should have a cell phone, than to deliberate endlessly as to what 17 gifts they absolutely must have for their birthday? With the price of an iphone, hey, in one fell whoop and hoorah, we've covered Christmas!

And, it is great to be able to text your kids when dinner is ready (who wants to walk to the bottom of the stairs and yell, anyway?). I love that I can call my daughter at any time. It is convenient. But, the notion that she is entitled to use it at her own discretion, with no supervision is not something I believe makes for good parenting.

What are some of the dangers of unsupervised usage you ask?

  • Lost and inadequate sleep, especially on school nights due to late night texting.
  • Probability of romantic attachments before a child is ready.
  • Use of inappropriate language and pictures that can endanger reputation and/or friendships.
  • Long term damage to reputation.
  • Cyber-bullying.
  • Concentration problems.
  • Inability to form IRL relationships.
  • Encounters with pedophiles.
  • Access to adult content that may cause confusion, stress, or bad decision making.
  • Due to inadequate knowledge about privacy settings, teens personal information is at risk.

What Are We Doing?

In a 2012 survey conducted by Pew Internet & American Life Project, 50% of parents of children ages 12-17 reported using parental controls on digital devices (computers, mobile devices, etc). Of parents surveyed, 72% said that they were concerned about who their child interacted with online. Ironically, only 42% of parents have ever read a privacy policy (a number I think is still pretty high), and 46% reported speaking to their child about their online profile.

No doubt, teenagers have a way of making us feel inferior, less than, incapable, and just plain old. Let's face it, we very may well be but we don't have to admit it to them. Any parent of a teenager will tell you it's a Herculean task to get your teen to talk to you. So, if you can't beat 'em...text 'em.

We need to know what they are doing, down to the name and purpose of each app on their phones. At any time, my daughter knows I can request to look at her phone, and she hands it over. Many times we will look at it together and messages with her friends often spark a conversation between us.

At thirteen, my daughter is entitled to a private life - for sure. She can talk on the phone (even in her room with the door closed). But messages, photos, any permanent digital trace, I want her to know I may be viewing them. For her safety today, as well as for her future reputation.



Practical Tips for Teen Cell Phone Safety

  • Set ground rules, time limits, and know who your child is communicating with.
  • In our home, to text a boy means to first ask permission.
  • Know the websites and apps your child uses regularly.
  • Get an Instagram account!
  • Get a Twitter!
  • Get a Facebook account and friend your child!
  • Read privacy policies.
  • Know how to set filters on google and youtube.
  • Talk to your child about what they do on their phone.
  • Do random checks of their messages, etc.
  • Lay the groundwork for trust. Establish a policy that you won't just secretly check their phone. Look at it together.
  • Have realistic consequences in place and follow through.
  • If your child regularly uses a technology, you should know how to use it, as well.

Comments

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    • JG11Bravo profile image

      JG11Bravo 3 years ago

      Good info. This problem is not only growing in scope but kids are getting younger and younger when exposed to social media, cell phones, and the like. This is worth some serious attention.

    • elemenopy profile image
      Author

      Mary Rokhvadze 3 years ago from Oneonta, NY

      It changes the playing field for all of us. I am particularly concerned about the lack of credible information out there and the general public's willingness to consume it. I teach it. But I wonder how much my students actually learn. Or care to learn.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A well-organized and well-written article. Good job!

    • elemenopy profile image
      Author

      Mary Rokhvadze 3 years ago from Oneonta, NY

      Billy, thank you. Validation!

    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 3 years ago from Sunny Spain

      For the first twenty years of my life, apart from one of my aunts, I didn't know personally, anyone that had a private phone in their home.

      I have two teenage grandchildren, I know my daughter is very strict on the sort of thing that you outline in your Hub, but I am going to send her the link to this hub as I think that she will enjoy reading it,especially your list of Practical Tips for Teen Cell Phone Safety.

      I also think she will be glad to see that there are other parents that think the same way about about how the parent should tackle navigating the foreign land of technology.

      An excellent article, it deserves to be seen by as many parents as possible, as many parents seem to be bowing down to the strident demands of their teenager's opinions of their rights.

      Voting up and hitting the relevant buttons on my way out :D

    • elemenopy profile image
      Author

      Mary Rokhvadze 3 years ago from Oneonta, NY

      Hi Maggs, thanks for stopping by.

      It is so good to know other parents who set similar parameters. At times it feels as though we are outnumbered by those who, as you say, bow to their teenager's demands. I think for many parents it is easier to just ignore the issue altogether.

      Your comments give me confidence to continue writing. They mean quite a bit to me. So - thank you!

      -Mary

    • Dee aka Nonna profile image

      Dee aka Nonna 3 years ago

      If only parent of today understood this. It is not hard to do....just have to be engaged with the child and not trying to do a million other things that we think must be done. Great information....great article. Enjoyed it very much.

    • elemenopy profile image
      Author

      Mary Rokhvadze 3 years ago from Oneonta, NY

      Dee, for me it was all in the pre-teen years and the relationship I established with my daughter. I believe we created a family morality and bond and this has helped so much now that my girl is a teenager. But, even if parent-tude kicks in at a later time, it's well worth the while to take charge and keep our kids safe, and their reputations in tact. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! -lmnop

    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 3 years ago from Arizona

      This is a very useful article for parents. Kids grow up so fast, but part of it is technology pushing them into a fast pace life. One thing that should never go out of style is parental guidance. I am grateful for the times that my parents have done so. Great Hub! Voted up!

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 3 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      This hub makes a lot of sense. I especially like the part where you suggest that it is good to check phone and internet use with your teenager to establish trust. Voted up and useful. Thanks :-)

    • Dania Razzak profile image

      Foyjur Razzak 3 years ago from Dhaka

      I think a filter should be perfect for kids Internet use. Parents must take care about this.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Some valid and important concerns pointed out by you in today's scenario. Times have changed a lot. Whereas checking the child's telephone may not be possible, I mean can the parents follow him/ her everywhere. It is best to teach them and make them aware about the positives and negatives; the good and the bad of the society. If the parents are close to the parents and friendly, the kids may not hide anything from them.

      Complex issue but can be tackled.

      Nice and well done hub! Congrats for HOTD!

    • thefedorows profile image

      thefedorows 3 years ago from the Midwest

      We do not have children yet, but have already begun talking about this. We are of a younger generation ourselves, but still did not have cell phones until college. That was less than ten years ago! Cell phones are now the norm. I cannot imagine what life will be like in another ten years for our children! Your hub was very well thought out. Thank you for sharing your insights and encouraging us to be the parents and say "no" even if our kids say "everyone else is doing it."

    • cfin profile image

      cfin 3 years ago from The World we live in

      Depending on the child supervision is merited and it's super easy to even go online and read their messages. It's a race against the clock because once they are 17 or 18, it's creepy, darn right irresponsible and plain wrong to monitor your "child".

      If my daughter is 17 and I feel the need to monitor her, I will have failed as a parent. At 17 I had my own apartment, was studying law in University and learned everything I needed to know about life through my experiences. If my dad did anything more than advise, well I would have just ended up like the mess that are most of my friends of my age.

      Not only do I say no to my daughter, but I sit down and talk about why. Obedience isn't enough, as one they are adults, they don't need to be obedient for anyone but themselves. It's best to bring them up with self respect and morals. Nothing can replace that.

      "Why do I monitor the Internet? Well hun, it's because there are many weird people out there and many violent and nasty things on there as well as great and wonderful things. Which do you want to be?"

      "I wanna be Wonderful Dad :D"

      "Okie dokie then. Now lets play Mario."

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Sooooo true. I guess I'm considered by many people in my crowd fairly 'strict' but I keep trying point out how to strike a healthy balance. Yes, some parents are too hard on kids, but it's no better to be too easy. They need guidance. There is such a thing as too much restriction, but there is also such a thing as too much freedom. Again, balance is key. Nice work here.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 3 years ago from the Ether

      Loved this! Hopefully by the time my 6 year old is a teenage girl this will still be applicable...but who knows with such fast pace in the technology world maybe cell phones will be a thing of the past at that point? Ugh. LOL. Thanks for this useful info!

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 3 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      I guess my kids were pretty spoiled, by the time they were old enough to use the phone, we got a separate line for the kids so my husband would not miss his business calls. Still, they were tethered to the cord, so generally there were within parental earshot.

    • elemenopy profile image
      Author

      Mary Rokhvadze 3 years ago from Oneonta, NY

      Wow! I am blown away and humbled but all of your comments! I want to reply to everyone...so I'll try to do that here. It is such a complex issue, one that balances trust with common sense safety. I agree, by the time my kid is 17, it's going to be way too late. She either gets it or doesn't - there's nothing much I can do at that point. But, right now, at 14, she's not there yet. We're getting close, though!

      And, none of us ever knows (maybe we never do) if we're doing the right thing the right way with our children. I think a lot of parents are just so out of the loop when it comes to technology that it is easier to ignore it than to learn it. That is a mistake, I feel. It is too true - in another ten years, I'll be hanging up my hat and shaking my head at all the new-fangled devices humankind hasn't even dreamed up yet!

      It is a balance, trying to create trust while at the same time "checking up." We do want our children to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Bottom line. And they may very well be doing just that. But, can we say the same for everyone else they bump into online?

    • jht1414 profile image

      JJ Tyson 3 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

      How do you think "random cell phone checks" make your kid feel? I realize you want to know what he/she is doing, but is looking through his/her cell phone at random intervals really a great plan to develop any kind of trust? And if you regularly check their cell phones, why do they need to check with you about who they text? Finally, you know it's possible to delete contacts and messages, right? If they just delete the history, what's the point?

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congratulations on HOTD! Well done and timely article.

      Could not have said it better myself! Voted up and across except funny. This is a major concern these days.

    • elemenopy profile image
      Author

      Mary Rokhvadze 3 years ago from Oneonta, NY

      Hey, JHT, I respect your pov! I guess I equate unmonitored use of the internet (which most smartphones have) like dropping your kid off in the middle of times square at midnight and saying "see ya later." It's not just about what my child is doing, it's about how they're being treated, etc. Their brains are not fully developed and they don't always have the capacity to know what could potentially be harmful to them.

      It's not just about who they text, but what pictures they are posting on instagram and whether they have friended strangers on fb, etc. Perhaps my child is being treated unkindly but is afraid to say so. It's my responsibility to know what is going on in this little person's life. A 13 year does not have a right to privacy. If you suspected your child of doing drugs, wouldn't you check their room? Go through their stuff? Does some ideal version of parental trust trump potential harmful behavior?

      I would not be savvy enough to write this article if I didn't know messages could be deleted :) And contacts. My daughter knows she will lose her phone if she deletes the history. I let her know when she can do that.

      Ultimately, we all know our own children best. Sitting with my girl and going through messages has opened up conversations between us we never would have had. It has made our trust stronger. But, that's just us.

    • elemenopy profile image
      Author

      Mary Rokhvadze 3 years ago from Oneonta, NY

      MzLizzy, I'm so glad you thought it was funny, too. Sometimes things sound funny in my head - but don't translate too well. Thanks for the vote. It is a major concern, and I think we all have our own ways of dealing. This is just one parent's point of view, I guess.

    • theBAT profile image

      theBAT 3 years ago

      A very interesting hub. I agree that doing "random checks" would help a lot. But, it has to be done in a manner that still respects privacy. Thank you for this hub.

    • elemenopy profile image
      Author

      Mary Rokhvadze 3 years ago from Oneonta, NY

      Thank you for taking the time to read it :) Bat!

    • wqaindia profile image

      Ashok Goyal 3 years ago from Rajpura 140401 Punjab India

      Good Article indeed. I used to have check over the kids but kids were so sharp that they locked their activities and unfriended me. Should it be presumed that the kids want privacy or should it be concluded that such kids might be indulging in online activities which may not be safer for them. Now telephone line is much more than talking.

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