Tech Talk Tuesday: Tween (or OMFG I’m In Over My Head)

I spent the day yesterday with my ten year old daughter and her ten year old  friend Ann. It was monumentally exhausting. It was a new sort of tired, the tired that comes from your core. The tired that makes you want to weep and sit in a corner.

The tired where you simply want to say, “Okay, I give up. I suck at parenting, and I’ll buy you all sorts of fancy crap if you promise to never ever speak again. Ever.”

That’s right. I want to bury my head in the sand.

My daughter wants a cell phone. She may not have one. It is not a fiscal issue, it’s a parenting issue. Jane is ten, and although she would love to be 15, she will simply have to wait. End. Of. Story.

Oh, not really, because Jane then explained to me that she’d be willing to accept a telephone in her bedroom. I told her I was okay with that. She wants her own telephone number.

Really?

I have to get a ten year old their own phone number? She has a laptop and an iTouch, really? Her own phone number?

I tried to steer the conversation toward using things like ichat and gmail to talk to friends, and the girls immediately started talking about the “lameness” of social networking sites.

“Club Penguin is so stupid that you can’t even enter a number.” Jane began.

“Oh but you can spell them out if you need to.” Ann replied.

Note to self: Check and recheck logs for Club Penguin

The girls then proceeded onto a long discussion about OurWorld.com and how they “deal with” people who ask them what their real name is.

Both girls were enthusiastic in knowing that a quick reply like, “can’t you see, my name is Username834.” Lets the other person know that you plan to remain anonymous. Really, how long can a ten year old outsmart an adult? Both girls knew it was imperative to report the user immediately.

I equate the internet with the mall. I’m showing my kids around, and teaching them safe habits. Unlike the mall, they’re needing these skills more than I’d hoped for.

My solution? No cellphone and the kids are on laptops. If I’m in the kitchen, they are too.

Right now, that’s what works. I want to give them some leeway, but we’re just not there yet. The telephone in the bedroom? I’m thinking yes. Perhaps we’ll tie it to school performance, a birthday or even as a bribe to not tell her brother about the tooth fairy.

There’s a lot of push and pull here lately. My kids want to be independent, and it would be cruel of us to not allow them some freedom. We are obligated to keep them safe.

Today I have more questions than answers.

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18 Comments

  1. Moving from protecting to empowering your kids is always tricky – I think its great you have the questions – many parents experience a big gap already at this stage – so you’re ahead of the game. You may need to show her some examples of what can happen with unfettered access to the Internet so she can begin to appreciate and move with caution. She sounds like she’s ready.
    :-)

  2. We don’t even have children yet – we aren’t even PREGNANT – but I am terrified of technology and children. Mostly because, no lie, I was the best kid on the planet. My most rebellious act came in college when I drove the two hours south to West Virginia without telling my mom. Because I was so good, I have no idea how to deal with a normal teenager. Throw the internet into the mix… the internet in 10-15 years no less… and I already feel screwed.

    Good luck. I think the phone in the bedroom is a good idea. I agree, she’s definitely too young for a cell phone. A phone in the bedroom is a HUGE freedom… as long as she’s okay with you checking any voice mail she receives. :-/

    I hope I’m not too much of a control freak to become a parent. Sigh.

  3. I am still stuck on “no.”

    My oldest is 9, and tells me “all” his friends have… (fill in the blank.) So we let him use our computers, our iPods…with us present. He has Wii and a DS. And that’s pretty much it. It seems like a lot to me. He has to ask if he can use them.

    At school, he has lots of computer time in labs and in the library… and that just has to be enough for now.

    I don’t know when “now” runs out. But we are OK with being control freaky for now.

  4. Jessica, I think the fact that you have questions is a sign you are an awesome parent. Technology and children can be hard to balance, I know from personal experience and have heard others stories of how the internet can be misused and dangerous, that includes for adults, we certainly are not immune to criminal acts on the internet. I do not even want to imagine what my kids will be capable of with technology merely because my husband works IT.

  5. This is so tough . . . I have often though that the more able I am to monitor my child’s use, the more acceptable I might find the technological gadget requested by my child. You can’t do that with a telephone (particularly not a landline) as easily as you can a computer or television, so it makes me more leery . . . I get that she wants her own number, but I would probably only allow that if there were another line that I could pick up at will to monitor, or on which I could install a caller ID. I’m controlling. Luckily, I have a few years before I have to deal with these issues!

  6. First off, I wish you were my mother. A laptop and an I touch at ten? You are probably the coolest mother ever. Don’t get her a cell-phone. I have young friends. They think it is obscene (i.e. outrageous) when a child has a cell-phone. I would say a phone in their room would be fine. Separate number? You would miss out on all of the prank calls. Very smart to teach them internet safety!

  7. I should just make a sign to wear around my neck that says

    “OMFG I’m in over my head!”

    But I’ll make it purdy. Do you want one too?

  8. Strangely, my 13 year old daughter is never on the phone. If I put a phone in her room, she’d ask, “What’s this for?”

    I guess I’m lucky.

  9. Henrietta was media free until 4th grade which had its own set of problems because I felt like such an ass when I had a need to set a “punishment” and the only thing I could take away was her books or art supplies. My solution was to buy a first generation vintage GameBoy that she never touched.

    When she turned 13, I gave in and got her a cell phone because I told myself that it would be more safe for her to have one but while walking the 6 blocks to school a guy ran up and grabbed her Sidekick away from her ear (she was talking to my mother in Texas). Now she is too scared to walk to school.

  10. We are going through the same thing with a 19 year old going on 12. How she even got through the 11th grade is amazing! She is 19 going in 12th, need I say more?

  11. I went directly against my hubs wishes and got my 8 year old a cell phone.

    That’s right.

    I did.

    The circumstances aren’t what’s important to this story, and there were circumstances.

    The point is this: she never uses it. It served its purpose. She was never aloud texting or to place or receive phone calls other than the ones in her contacts and only I know the security code to open that up. Never bothered her….the allure was quick. The thrill is gone. No novelty. And I am only out $10 a month for her service.

  12. Geez, you are walking a tight rope alright. I’m not looking forward to this. My three year old has already been begging me for his own laptop…so I got a toy that was a close as I could find. It’ll fool him for at least another couple of months or so…

    I’m horrified that people are asking your daughter her real name online already! OMG…I have so much crazyiness to look forward to…

  13. It’s a tough new world out there for children and parents. We didn’t have cell phones or phones in our bedroom when I was growing up or even when my daughter was growing up, although she did get her own phone line when she turned 15. Yesterday I saw a kid who looked about 8 years old riding his bicycle and talking on his cell phone. He was swerving down the road barely looking ahead. And you are right about the internet. There is way too much temptation and dangers that are easily accessed by children.

  14. My son is six–SIX–and already asking for a cell phone. I’ve debated getting him one in a year or two for safety purposes, which also opens up the GPS/track-the-kid-or-not debate. Which I can’t even begin to contemplate yet. So for now, he’s got his DS and Wii, is allowed onto my laptop to play E-rated games (if he stumbles on a game with blood, he actually scoots right out of it.) I think you’re doing all the right things, and being a few years behind you, will continue to benefit from your experience.

  15. I hope yo uare monitoring the laptop! Or at least will be soon!

    I applaud you for taking a stand. I wish more parents would. The problem with the younger wired generation is that they have been handed everything to a point of expected entitlement. If more parents said “No. i am the parent. You are the kid,” maybe we’d be better off as a society…

  16. I got my kid her first cellphone when she was 11 – more for my peace of mind than a perk for her, as we were separated for up to 20 hours a week after school when she was training gymnastics. As it was, she usually forgot to bring the phone with her or keep it charged and it only got a lot of use when she went off to sleepaway camp.

    She’s 13 now and used her Bat Mitzvah money to buy herself a new, text-capable phone (with her dad’s approval; not mine!). I was shocked and bemused the evening of the last day of school when we picked her and her friends up from her first solo mall trip and drove them all to a sleepover… and the entire time, the girls were texting boys from their class. It certainly was an eye opener.

    None of this is easy, but every era has its challenges and your kids are lucky that you are so tech savvy yourself (I like to think mine is, too).

  17. My kids have been hocking me for a phone, but I refuse to budge. My oldest is almost 9. Just no reason for him to have one now.

  18. We have T-Mobile and let our kids have cell phones. Online, you can control who calls in and who they can call and you can turn it on or shut it off based on behavior, grades, etc. We can even reward with more minutes.
    One trick we use with the cell phone is that if our kids are with some friends and are being peer-pressured into doing something they don’t want to do, they can send a secret text to mom or dad with a secret code word.
    The we call them and act like the “bad” parents that we are. “Where are you, who are you with, you should have been home already, I’m comimg to get you!!!”
    It has paid off on many occasions.

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