What It’s Like to Have Parents Electronically Monitor Your Every Move

Hi Readers — This came in as one of the comments on the post below this one, about a device that lets parents track their child’s every text, photo, phone call and move. I found it most interesting (and I’m worried about the writer’s friend). – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: When I was a child, I had a friend whose parents would check his backpack every day after school, “just in case.” After a while, he noticed the recurring theme with this, and started figuring out ingenious ways to conceal “illicit” objects from his parents. Back then it was little mildly dangerous knick-knacks like bb guns, slingshots and the occasional firecracker. (We would play with these things endlessly, and eventually learned to treat them with care and common sense.)

Nowadays, he uses the same smuggling techniques on much less inane objects, like liquor for parties. (We’re in high school.) No matter how hard one tries to invade the privacy of one’s child, the child will always find a way to get around it. Not only that, but they will also harbor resentment. This makes them more likely to lie to avoid trouble. My mum has always understood this, and when she asks if there will be drinking at the party, I tell the truth. Then she warns me not to overdo it, and lets me know that if I’m in trouble, she can always help me out of it. I’ve taken her up on that offer several times in fact, and have learned from those experiences.

My friend, however, just sneaks out after his parents say no, and goes anyway. He then proceeds to get totally smashed, get taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning and get grounded by his parents. So he sneaks out again. And again. And again. He often gets into the trouble that I’ve learned to avoid, and has no way out. Because if he tells his parents, they won’t help. They’ll take away his Xbox, or they’ll ground him, or they’ll send him to live with his aunt, etc.

What I’m getting at is that kids will always find a way around surveillance products like these, which ultimately do more harm than good. If one treats one’s children with respect and dignity, they will generally reciprocate with honesty, and will be better prepared for life. Help, don’t hinder.

I’m a 17-year-old, in case you’re wondering. And (in my humble opinion) a mature one at that.

I love this site by the way. I look forward to having Free-Range Kids of my own. — A Guy in Canada
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I see our son is texting again!

62 Responses to What It’s Like to Have Parents Electronically Monitor Your Every Move

  1. catherine January 8, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Let’s not assume that the young man is doing dangerous things BECAUSE his parents checked his backpack as a child.

    We do not do routine backpack checks in our family. But when our eldest was 8 she was taking her gameboy to school with her, breaking school rules (and ours). When we found out about this, she had broken our trust and yeah, we checked her backpack for a while. That’s just good parenting: having straightforward rules and consistent consequences for breaking them.

    Maybe these parents are helicoptering in many other ways, and this kid feels driven to act out. Or maybe the kid was a boundary-pusher from the beginning, who needed some extra supervision.

    But it’s just as crazy to say “backpack-checking parents cause juvenile delinquency” as it is to say “some kid was kidnapped in New York so I can’t let my kid walk to the park alone.”

  2. Donald January 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    I love the article, Track Your Child’s Every….. and this one. They fit so well together.

    The Free Range Movement is under so much criticism such as, “How can you put children in danger like that?“

    It’s very clear that hovering, stalking, and treating children like fragile morons is much more dangerous.

    Children grow up to be adults. The transition stage for child to adult can be very stressful. We all know that confidence and self esteem are very import. Some people have a low self esteem while others esteem is high. However, where does it come from? Is it something that you may be borne with like a cleft chin?
    Confidence and self esteem is a life-long development that starts on the very first day. When mom walks out into the other room and walks back, the baby starts understanding that he or she can live without mom for 10 seconds. When they open the refrigerator and pour a glass of milk by themselves, it adds to the confidence tally.

    However, when mom prevents this and says, “Oh No dear, you might drop it. Let mommy do it for you, she isn’t being as protective as she thinks she is. Not only does it stunt their growth in developing confidence, it undermines it. Although this isn’t her intention, she is telling her child, “I DON’T TRUST YOU. YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. YOU MAY DROP IT”.
    It’s inevitable that parents have to make decisions about the child’s safety and how far will you allow them to wander. Whether or not they allow them to walk to school or use a public toilet is an open debate. Is it too dangerous to let them do this? There is a danger factor of allowing them freedom but there is also dangerous not to.
    Hindering the development of confidence also stunts their growth in self esteem. Parents get so caught in protecting their children so much that they forget that it is also their duty to prepare them for life.
    Anxiety and depression is happening in epidemic proportions. They are also strongly connected to self esteem.
    Before you tell off a mother for being neglectful for allowing her son to ride the train, stop and think. Are you being neglectful for not allowing your son to ride the train?

    The transition from child to adult is very stressful. However, we make it MUCH more stressful if we prevent children from experiencing life for as long as we can. We make the learning curve much more severe. Life is stressful enough. Why do we want to make it more stressful?

  3. Backroadsem January 8, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    catherine has a point–there is nothing wrong with backpacking checking in and of itself. I would daresay what would be a problem is the constant assumption you are doing something troublesome.

    Free-range parenting is not about letting your kids run amok or even doing dangerous things. There’s plenty of room for rules, expectations, consequences, etc. What I think truly sets free-range parenting is part is the focus on teaching and trusting kids to follow those rules and expectations. It’s saying “I’ve taken time to teach you how to interact with the world and I trust that you have learned those lessons. I’m sure you will still have troublesome moments from time to time as we all do, but I’m not going to assume you will fail.”

    You might backpack check because, as catherine said, trust was temporarily lost and you’re taking time to reteach a lesson. You might backpack check because you’re in the middle of teaching a lesson on responsibility. But backpack checking simply because you assume for no reason your kid is up to no good sends the wrong message.

    While I”m sure there are exceptions, I’ve noticed that the kids who are unfairly mistrusted by their parents, the ones with too many rules and too little trust, the ones who are constantly hounded by parents… are the ones most likely to get in trouble. I believe that if kid knows his parents trust him, he’ll usually do what he can to maintain that trust. I have a co-worker who has all but one of her adult children living with her. These adults are irresponsible drug addicts and alcoholics who are incapable of taking care of themselves. Her teenager is running into the same bits of trouble. Co-worker doesn’t know what she is doing wrong and is raising her teenager the same way she raised the other kids–lots of rules, constant nagging, doing everything for them so they won’t mess anything up. She doesn’t seem to consider tweeking her parenting.

  4. him January 8, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    I think the quote below is scary. i would not want my kid around any kid who’s mom lets him drink underage. she might get him out of trouble but what about the other kids involved. parents who let kids break the law are crazy.

    “My mum has always understood this, and when she asks if there will be drinking at the party, I tell the truth. Then she warns me not to overdo it, and lets me know that if I’m in trouble, she can always help me out of it”

  5. Bose in St. Peter MN January 8, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    I works for me that he starts with, “When I was a child,” and closes with “I’m a 17-year-old…”

    Help, don’t hinder… indeed.

  6. Kay January 8, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    Drinking age in Canada is 19 (19 in some provinces), and 16 and 17 year olds can drink under supervision… so I assume the “get me out of trouble” means “drive me home if I’ve had too many”– seems like a really responsible habit to cultivate.

  7. TM January 8, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    Him, I agree with you that the idea of children drinking underage is scary. I also know that it is quite likely. Not for all teenagers but many. The number of students who have been taken to the hospital from our school because of alcohol poisoning due to drinking during lunch hour is higher than you would guess, so I would expect it happens more than parents believe during weekend get togethers. While I’d prefer my child to avoid it altogether, I would still much rather be told the truth than have her hide it and sneak around. The one thing that I’ve learned by working in a high school is that parents who assume that ” my kids tell me everything, we’re very close and he/she is a good girl/boy” are sometimes quite mistaken. It always amazes me to compare what students tell me about themselves and what I see to what their parents tell me. At a certain age, you will only know what your children want you to know. Spying won’t help in the long run either, but if I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned to assume nothing, take nothing for granted. The best we can do is give our children our expectations, have consequences, be open and forthright in discussions and then hope to high heck that they make the right choices.

  8. Emily January 8, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    I completely agree with the wise words of this young man. Also, Catherine, I just want to ask you, why exactly does your daughter’s school forbid bringing Game Boys, etc., to school at all? I mean, they should obviously be forbidden during classes, because class time is for learning, but what’s wrong with a child playing a handheld game at recess or lunch time? If it’s a potential loss/theft/breakage issue, then, well, there might be something to be said for letting her experience the natural consequences, and then having to save up her allowance to buy a new Game Boy. I mean, obviously, you should encourage your daughter to follow the rules at school, but it just seemed a little strange–when I was in school, even in elementary, there was no rule against bringing handheld games or portable music devices to school, as long as we confined our use of said items to break times.

  9. Seamus [Impetus Engagement] January 8, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    Did we not learn our lesson from Darwin? Nature always finds a way. That is the the thing that makes evolution possible. Raising a child is the same as evolution. A change from childhood to adulthood. The circumstances surrounding that change will determine the outcome.

    Do we need to look farther than the catholic church for an example? They are one of the most draconian, disciplined, rules oriented organizations in the world. What happens when those rules deny people’s natures? Young boys get molested.

    This is exactly why the US adopted is system of the judiciary. Obviously everything can’t be codified. If it was, people would find ways around it. The government would then be unable to draft new laws fast enough to keep up, and the whole system would become unwieldy. Instead, judges attempt to interpret the meaning of a law, and that interpretation in effect becomes law.

    The point: kids reflect what is given to them. If they are trusted and treated like an adult they will behave like one. If they are treated like a criminal who could break the law at any moment…

    @ Emily: Having been an administrator, I know schools tell parents what they want to hear, so that the school can do what it needs to do. What the school needs to do is protect itself from lawsuits. If a device is lost at school a parent could blame/sue the school for not having adequate safety. So the intent is to protect against lawsuits, but to get parents to go along with it, they label it as an educational initiative. It likely is an educational initiative as well, but it serves a deeper purpose.

    In my kindergarten, we had problems with parents coming late to pick up their children so that their children could have more play time. The problem is that hard working teachers wouldn’t get their prep time, had to work longer hours, and the budget didn’t allow for adequate pay. So we would tell the parents, “we clean the school at 4:30. Kids must be picked up at 4:00 because the cleaning machines and products if an accident were to occur.” Again, it was a safety issue that parents would want to go along with. But it also served a deeper purpose.

  10. Jenna K. January 8, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    I think there is a line between hovering/helicopter parenting and being an observant and present parent. I check my kids’ backpacks on occasion–not because I think they’re smuggling things or anything, but because sometimes they don’t give me everything they are supposed to give me and sometimes their backpacks just need a good cleaning so I look through it with them.

    There is nothing wrong with having rules and expecting your kids to obey them and following through with them to make sure they are following the rules. That also teaches them responsibility and how to function in real life.

  11. Tony January 8, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    People seem very fixated on the backpack checking aspect of this article. The main issue was not so much the backpack checking itself, but rather the fact that it was taken to excess. This caused him to feel powerless, irritated and rebellious. A dangerous thing -and unhealthy too- for a developing mind.

    Not to mention, when taken to that extreme, and in the context of suspicion, that it was an invasion of privacy. Remember that the article that this was a response to was about privacy, or rather the lack thereof for children.

  12. Beth January 8, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    I would like to see proof that a parent has successfully sued a school because their child lost something there.

  13. Emily January 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    I agree with Beth. When I was in school (not so very long ago; I started kindergarten in 1989, and finished OAC in 2003), if you brought something to school and lost it, you were told to take better care of your belongings. If you brought something to school and it got stolen, most parents would try to help their kids recover the stolen item in question, as would most GOOD teachers and administrators, but then, not all of them were good. I had this happen on several occasions, not with big-ticket items, but with things that I needed to bring to school, such as pencil crayons and markers, and often, my lunch as well. My grade six teacher thought that it was perfectly fine for other kids to steal my lunch, because I was overweight, but my art supplies were eventually returned to me, after a major uphill battle, and several false starts (including the perpetrators “returning” someone’s old cast-off pencil crayons to me, and claiming that they were mine). However, the principal had me describe to him what exactly was taken (a set of fairly new Laurentian pencil crayons, plus a set of Crayola Mini Stamper markers–anyone remember those?) Anyway, the crazy thing is, I also remember bringing my Game Boy to school to play with at recess, but I never had a problem with anyone else trying to steal that, because, despite being a “poorer” school, most kids had handheld game devices, even though some of them went without proper food or school supplies. My parents didn’t believe in video games, and I didn’t even get said Game Boy until grade eight (I saved up my allowance), but we weren’t poor, and my brother and I never went without anything we needed. However, the other kids, whose parents really couldn’t afford the necessities, bought them Game Boys instead, and sent them to school with ramen noodles, potato chips, and candy for lunch. It made no sense at all.

  14. Donald January 8, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Kids are going to push boundaries. They always have and always will.

    “ i would not want my kid around any kid who’s mom lets him drink underage.” – This person missed the point completely. Parents have a limited amount of influence on their child. When you use that influence, try to do it on the most important things.

    If you ‘overspend’ and try to influence too often, it reduces its effectiveness. The more it’s used, the less effective it is. The more extreme helicopter parents try to use their influence on everything. They then wonder why it doesn’t work.

    We aren’t about allowing underage drinking. We know that a parents influence has limitations. We want to ‘spend’ that influence wisely.

  15. Violet January 8, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

    Gotta a love a 17-year-old who sometimes drinks too much at parties describe himself as mature. Don’t get me wrong: everything he said he has done is completely within the realm of normal experimentation and I agree that we can’t always keep our children from drinking or playing with fireworks behind our backs. But, he is not necessarily mature!

  16. Uly January 8, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    Don’t you remember being seventeen, Violet? They ALWAYS describe themselves as mature, whether they are or aren’t. So do twelve year olds, for that matter….

    At any rate, plenty of adults drink to excess as well. Sadly, having good sense and judgment is not something you necessarily get just with time and practice.

    As far as drinking underage goes, quite aside from the fact that in many English speaking countries the drinking age is lower than it is in the US, in many US states it is perfectly legal to serve your underage child alcohol in your own home. Still others allow it on private property so long as there is parental consent, and a few, such as Louisiana, allow it even without parental consent so long as it’s not being sold to the minor. I’m not about to try to guess which laws may or may not apply to this commenters parents.

  17. Uly January 8, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    Here, I just googled for it. I’m operating under the assumption that their information isn’t grossly inaccurate. I know that the information about New York State is accurate, or at least was when I was under 21. Certainly no waiters ever batted an eye when my mother would offer to buy me a glass of wine at dinner on my birthday! (Much to her amusement, I always declined. The very smell appalls me, and I figure that if I wouldn’t eat rotten fruit I probably shouldn’t drink rotten fruit juice, though this same logic doesn’t apply to curdled rotten milk solids. Go figure. Cheese at least tastes good.)

  18. Joel January 9, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    As someone who had very limited autonomy growing up, I’ve grown into a broken adult who is impaired in many ways.
    I read about what parents are doing and I know it won’t end well for the child who is treated that way.

    As for the the knee jerk reaction to drinking. The studies say you are not able to make rational decisions about risky behavior until you are 21, so you can’t drink. But it’s ok to sign up for the military. So I say l None til 21….. no job ( could entail risky behavior), no driving, no smoking, no military, can’t own property, no voting ( because you can’t make choices) , no drinking, no sex, and extend high school out 3 more years, zero tolerance will help there, you are nothing till 21.

    Sorry for the rant but if a young person of 18 can go and risk coming home in a silver coffin, the 21 age limit is B/S

  19. Donna January 9, 2013 at 4:31 am #

    My mother also had the attitude that I could drink as long as I didn’t drink and drive or ever get into a car in which the driver had been drinking. As a consequence, I never drank and drove (still don’t) and never got into the car with a drunk driver. Why? Because I knew that I could legitimately call my mother and would get in absolutely no trouble whatsoever. You can’t really expect a teen to call his parent and say that he is too drunk to drive home if he knows it will get him in trouble. He’s going to get into the car and drive.

    I also rarely called because being drunk has never held great interest to me. But even I admit that I was more interested before I turned 21 because, although my mother didn’t care if I drank society did, so I was still doing something illicit. I lost most interest as soon as I turned 21 and didn’t even drink a drop of alcohol in my 21st birthday despite it being expected. Now I will occasionally have a drink or two at a social function but haven’t been drunk in many many years.

    If I, who was allowed to drink, was still somewhat excited by the notion of drinking because it was illegal, I can’t imagine the draw to a teen for whom drinking is a big no-no from everyone. I know that my friends were always more interested in getting drunk on the weekends than me.

  20. Taradlion January 9, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    For the comments that are claiming that the internet DOES make today different than when we grew up in support of this software, unless the software allows parents to act as a moderator (deciding what is sent before it goes out) isn’t it “too late”…perhaps it could result in consequences to try to change would be repeat behavior, but getting a emailed notification that my kid just sent out sexting photos is kind of like seeing the picture on the cover of playboy…

    If a parent fears what their kid will do with their phone, email, laptop, iPod, then the child shouldn’t have access given freely by the parent (they may gain access elsewhere, which is EXACTLY what they will do if they want to get around the spyware anyway).

    If my mom had traced me in HS, she would have seen me at parties where kids were drinking. What tracking wouldn’t have showed her, is that I was there with my boyfriend or friend driving other kids home and driving their cars to their driveways. Those kids would absolutely have driven their own cars home (drunk) and (if they made it) tried to sneak inside….as parent, I think my mom probably would not have wanted me as a (fairly) new driver driving other families’ cars, but I am glad I did.

    I also had no big fascination with alcohol. However, I was not allowed sugared cereal as a kid. I wound up with my FIRST cavity freshmen year of college when I could eat Captain Crunch every day. The internet should not be any different than other aspects of life view from a Free Range perspective….1) know your kid and what they are ready for 2) give increasing access while TEACHING how to navigate 3) Give trust based on high expectations and 4) Foster confidence in your kids

  21. Sally January 9, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    Well then Violet, if that’s your definition of being mature, I guess some 40 odd years won’t even do it. So it must be experience and observation, rather than maturity, that makes me aware that on certain special occasions, drinking to excess IS good judgment.

    And so a toast: To the human race (imperfections incl.) — Cheers everyone!

  22. RobynHeud January 9, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    When I was a kid and the internet was still fairly new for home use (only about twenty to twenty-five years ago) my dad installed a new program on our computer called Net Nanny. It was supposed to keep kids off of illicit sites, but it also reminds me of the app that started this conversation in that it didn’t matter what I was doing on the computer, it was watching. It didn’t bother me online because I didn’t access the sites it blocked, but what finally made me ask my dad to take it off was when I was writing a paper and used the word “bomb”. All of a sudden there was a pop-up saying to save my work because it was shutting me down. Even at ten years old (or however young I was then) I found this unacceptable and told my dad, who agreed, and uninstalled the software.

  23. melissa January 9, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Like a lot of other posters, I agree that a mom that consents to her son’s drinking at parties while still in high school isn’t exactly helping the cause, at least in my opinion. It’s not that I don’t think a 17 could *potentially* be mature enough to handle a drink responsibly, but rather that it’s illegal and could end up causing a world of problems for him were he to get caught by authorities. I don’t know the legal drinking age in Canada, but I’m sure it’s not 17. I think this is the wrong message. As a free-range parent my goal is to teach my children how to navigate safely and successfully in the world around them and to instill character that will continue to guide them when I’m not around. Illegal teenage drinking, by a “mature” teenager or not, isn’t something I’d be touting as a success story.

  24. Dirge January 9, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Here’s an opposite perspective. I have never had a drink. I’m not anti-alcohol, and all my family members drink socially. I think part the reason I never started was because when I was a teen, my dad told me he would probably let me have a beer around the house from time to time once I turned 16. It took all the rebellion out of it, so I never drank under age.

    I continue to be a tea-totaller because it is one of my more interesting personality points. And I get free stuff when I DD.

  25. Stephanie January 9, 2013 at 10:41 am #


    “Did we not learn our lesson from Darwin? Nature always finds a way.”

    I thought that was Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park? 😉 (Or maybe that line was quoting Darwin? I don’t know… But as soon as I read that, my mind went to Jurassic Park!)


    My parents raised me pretty much the same way. I wasn’t allowed to have liquor, but from the time I was pretty young), I was allowed to have a little bit of beer or wine. Especially wine with holiday dinners. I was allowed to drink (only one drink though) in my home in high school, with the understanding that if I did not leave the house for the rest of the evening. They made it clear that they did not want me drinking at parties, but that if I ever needed a ride home they’d pick me up, no questions asked, but I attended a grand total of one party in high school where there was drinking, and I did not partake.

    Never snuck around behind their back, never got out-of-control drunk, didn’t drink at a party until 5 months before my 21st birthday, and now, at 30, it’s rare that I even drink enough to get buzzed. Wine with dinner, a beer after doing yard work, stuff like that. If I plan on having more than one drink, I make sure I have a DD. When booze isn’t turned into a forbidden fruit, and your parents model responsible alcohol consumption, there’s really no motivation to rebel, or to overdo it if you do decide to drink.

  26. Emily January 9, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Melissa–The legal drinking age in Canada is 18, except in Ontario, where it’s 19. I grew up in Ontario, but I did my Bachelor’s degree at Bishop’s University, which is in Quebec, so when I was in my first year there, I was 19, because I’d done OAC the year prior (final year of high school, formerly known as “grade 13, with advanced classes designed as university preparation), but I had friends from the “new curriculum” that started the year after mine, that didn’t have OAC, so they were only 18. So, they were legally allowed to drink when they were away at university, but not when they came home on breaks, until they turned 19. The university didn’t act “in loco parentis,” so you’d think it’d be safer for these people to be drinking at home, but the law can be strange sometimes.

  27. Donna January 9, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    The mother likely isn’t encouraging or really consenting to her child drinking at parties, she is accepting that it will happen and choosing take the lesser of two evils – not pitching a fit about it, thus, forcing it underground, making it more attractive and possibly leading to something as highly dangerous as a newly licensed teen getting behind the wheel of a car drunk.

    What if she refuses to allow him to go to a party where drinking may occur? She prevents him from attending THAT party and only THAT party. He will still attend parties and he will still drink at them if al inclined. , she will just be told that he is going someplace else

  28. Warren January 9, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Here we go again, getting way off topic. LOL.

    Going through your kids stuff, spying, snooping, searching whatever you want to call it, is wrong. If a parent has to resort to these measures, there is plenty of other issues they need to deal with.

    As for the drinking underage, let’s not forget there are cultural differences when it comes to alcohol, as well.
    Personally, once I was 16, I could have a couple beers with dad, when his buddies were over. Limit of 2. Later when going away with friends for the weekend, I was allowed a case of 24, on the condition, that was it. I kept my word, and never bought anymore. I was taught respect for alcohol, and to this day, drink socially, and occassionally tie one on with the boys.
    If you plan for a ride, or a couch, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the occassional night of excess.
    And to tell you teens any different, is wrong.
    On this site, we bitch about zero tolerance all the time. But it seems that as parents we can institute zero tolerance on our kids and it is fine.

    So Violet, I guess I do not make it on your mature list either.

  29. Captain America January 9, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    My dad was an abusive alcoholic—so my siblings and I never cottoned much to drinking and I’ve always felt fearful about it.

    It’s perhaps a bit too easy to get reckless with drinking at age 17. Drinking for drinking’s sake is immature.

    The point of the article is parental over-watch. My take on this is that we have too few children. . . this makes the parents overly attentive to the few they have, and also deprives the child of watchful siblings who may tell on him if he does something wrong. It’s a cycle; size of family has a good bit to do with this.

    And of course, evolutionarily speaking, if you put all your eggs in one basket, you’re likely to watch and watch and watch that basket. I think previous generations with larger families had an appreciation that even the best of parents can have a child who’s difficult, etc.

  30. Nanci January 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    If all the parents are doing in laying a list of don’t and then strictly enforcing them then yes the child probably will become sneaky and rebel and get into far more trouble. However I also do not believe that allowing your child to do something wrong with the assumption that they will do it anyway is right at all! Parents need to be able to make sure that their values become their children’s values. If the child themselves understands why the the parents are against drinking and that becomes the childs own value then the parents can give the child all the freedom in the world and the child will not drink. I speak from experience on this, I’m 35 years old and have never tasted beer or anything else. I was told the trouble that drinking, smoking, drugs, pre-marital sex could bring in life and that it was WRONG and therefor those became my values also and I never had any desire to participate in those kinds of activities. My parents could trust me to come and go as I pleased and never had to check up on me or restrict me in any way, they TRUSTED me because I shared their values!

  31. Donna January 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    I want for my child to not have sex until she graduates high school. Ultimately what she chooses to do with her own body is her choice. Short of locking her in a corset, I can’t actually stop sex from occurring. Where there is a will, there is a way. Better, in my view to discuss sex and accept that it is her choice and I may have to live with something other than the decision that I would choose since I would much rather have her open with me about it so that her future and health isn’t detailed by pregnancy or VD.

    I feel the same about alcohol. I don’t want my child to get drunk at parties in high school. It simply isn’t something I have that much control over short of my child living in a constant police state. My friends who were forbidden to drink didn’t actually not go to parties or stay sober if they did, they simply snuck out, arranged a sleepover at a friend’s house, told their parents lies as to where they were going, etc. if they were inclined to drink (only one that I know of became an alcoholic or drug addict in adulthood). Better to educate her, discuss her choices in a non-punitive fashion and give her a real get-out-of-jail-free card if she chooses to drink and gets in over her head. And the added bonuses of actually always knowing where my child is as opposed to being told whatever lie that gets her out the door and taking much of the allure out of alcohol.

    Alcohol exists in copious amounts in high school. I’ve seen absolutely no evidence whatsoever that parents penalizing its use actually decreases it.

  32. Donna January 9, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Nanci, you are talking apples and oranges. There is a difference between being anti-alcohol and instilling those values in your children and simply enforcing a law that you can’t driink until age 21.

    People’s values are different. I DO drink alcohol occasionally and see absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever in a person drinking alcohol in a moderate fashion. So the values that I impart on my child are that drinking responsibly is perfectly okay. Now I could penalize all alcohol consumption simply because the law says she can’t do it until she is 21. I have no reason for doing so except that the law says she has to be 21 as I have no moral opposition to drinking per se. But I don’t see that getting me anywhere positive in my parenting. So instead I discuss responsible alcohol consumption with my child.

  33. EricS January 9, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    This is how I was brought up pretty much. My parents realized that no matter what they said, we would find ways around it. So instead of enforcing not doing what kids do, they let us be (within reason of course). We had no curfew, we got to go where we wanted (starting at the age of 8-10) in the city, taking street cars and subway. We had BB guns, slingshots, homemade throwing stars. But because our parents always taught us about responsibilities, consequences and respect, we never felt the need to hide things. And we were more honest than not. We trusted our parents, who in turn trusted us. Mind you, being kids we still got into trouble. But not so bad, we were arrested or hospitalized. Our parents then didn’t avoid things that couldn’t be avoided (which is pretty much most things). Instead, they taught us to deal and learn from our situations. And was always there to guide us if we couldn’t manage to. That is the true essence of “Free-range”. This kid has a good head on his shoulders. He will still get into trouble, or find himself in situations where he’s tempted to do the wrong things. But he will know better than most of his friends. Because he has parents that are bringing him up the right way for this world. Not the right way for them (the parents).

  34. EricS January 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    I agree with you Donna 100%. You can’t hammer in a screw without doing damage. They are meant to be turned into place. Making the right adjustments along the way.

  35. Uly January 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    Nanci, if you’re claiming that anybody who ever has a glass of champagne or a can of beer is profoundly immoral and going to get in trouble then I have to say that your parents lied to you. Drinking to excess is harmful. Having a drink, not so much.

  36. Sally January 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Uly, I just put my hand up and said I drink to excess occasionally, no? And yet, I’m thoroughly disgusted that you have the chutzpa to lecture Nanci and her parents about their beliefs! Even say they lied!! Can you say nervy? Nanci, just a reminder — this site is supposed to be about raising your children as YOU see fit, you keep doing your thing!

  37. Warren January 9, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    Sorry Sally and Nanci,

    The whole preaching that drinking, smoking, sex, and whatever is “WRONG”, is not helping anyone. As a matter of fact that sort of thinking is what gets people into trouble.

    Education is the key. Not judging, and condemning.
    You raise a child to believe, for example, that drinking is wrong, then you are teaching your child that people who drink are bad or evil. And that is wrong.

    It is amazing that people will get all hot and bothered over alcohol. In this day and age, with all that we know, people still get so worked up over things like this.

    I think we should take the advice of a great philosopher, Terri Clark, “I think the world needs a drink.”

  38. Chihiro January 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    A lot of people are criticizing the teenager who described himself as ‘mature’ while also admitting to getting drunk at parties.
    From a teenager: Everyone drinks in high school.
    Now, I go to a Catholic high school. We have a lot of strict rules when it comes to students drinking, on or off campus.
    Still, everyone drinks.
    Personally, it’s not my thing. I’ve never gotten drunk at a high school party, though I’ve been to plenty.
    I don’t have a problem with it. Yes, it’s illegal, which is another reason why I don’t participate. But I can’t stop the other kids who don’t share my views.
    I try to keep the other kids off the roads. I always volunteer to be a designated driver, because I’m always sober. Most of my classmates know they’re drunk and are cool with me giving them a ride home.
    Drinking is not bad. Drinking excessively, or drinking and driving is bad.

  39. Crystal January 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Here was my parents’ surefire way to keep their children from drinking: become a foster family to babies with Fetal Alcohol Sydrome (FAS). When we saw how screwed-up these beautiful babies/toddlers and beyond were and the sheer amount of WORK they take because of so much alcohol in their little systems, we all got the point. Consequently, alcohol never held any allure for us!

  40. Sally January 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    Sorry Warren, “education” (read: repeating what YOU believe) is not the answer to everything. What a crock. Has the irony of telling other people it is WRONG to tell people something is WRONG not hit you over the head yet?

    “You raise a child to believe, for example, that drinking is wrong, then you are teaching your child that people who drink are bad or evil. And that is wrong.” Huh?

    “Judging, and condemning”, you say? You’re the one who’s getting all preachy as far as I can see. It’s Nanci’s family, not yours, and she has every right to hold, and pass on, the beliefs she sees fit. So give it a rest and show a little tolerance, eh.

  41. Nanci January 9, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Maybe I need to clarify a little, apparently the thing about alcohol being wrong really struck a nerve. I do believe there is an absolute right/wrong in the world and I believe that is the Bible. While the Bible may not say that taking a drink is wrong, it does say that being drunk certainly is a sin. As a Christian it is my desire to not cause anyone any confusion. If alcohol is associated with sin in any way I will not participate in it at all to avoid all appearance of evil. Do I believe someone having a glass of wine is evil, of course not. Will I ever have a glass, absolutely not!

  42. Uly January 9, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    But, Nanci, as a Christian, how do you reconcile your belief that all alcohol consumption is wrong with the fact that Jesus’ very first miracle was turning water into wine? What was he doing, deliberately leading those partygoers into temptation?

  43. Uly January 9, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Sally, if Nanci’s parents actually told her that any amount of alcohol consumption is dangerous and will ruin her life then that is not a matter of personal beliefs, it is a matter of facts. And the facts show that plenty of people drink in moderation and do no harm to themselves or others. If they said otherwise, they lied. Period.

  44. Sally January 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    Any amount of Right makes up for all sorts of Rude, huh Uly?

  45. Violet January 9, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    The teen brain is different than the adult brain and even moderate amounts of alcohol can damage the teen brain. Of course most teens drink but I just thought it was cute that the OP thinks he is so mature. If you are grown, and drink to the point of getting drunk, I really don’t care as long as you aren’t driving. The fact that teens can sign up for the military but not drink is absurd but I don’t think an 18 year old is really mature enough to decide to sign up for dying for his country.

  46. Yan Seiner January 9, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    @Violet: “I don’t think an 18 year old is really mature enough to decide to sign up for dying for his country”. Oh boy. Please, please research some of the achievements by teens in the history of the world.

    It’s only in the last 30 years or so in America that we’ve infantilized our children to the point where 18 is considered incapable of decision making.

  47. Tony January 10, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    @Violet: OP here. I’d just like to verify. When I said mature, I didn’t mean that I have learned all the lessons that there are to learn. Heck I doubt many of you well ever learn every lesson yourselves.
    What I meant is that in contrast to many of my friends (The one who was hospitalized is fine, by the way) I am quite mature.

    Also, @Sally: I like the cut of your jib. Cheers to you also!
    (Somehow even though I’m enjoying a glass of wine, I’m still fully functioning! My brain is still capable of processing information, despite the fact that I’m a teenager! Imagine that!)

  48. Donna January 10, 2013 at 5:06 am #

    Nanci is entitled to personal her beliefs as to alcohol. She is not wrong for teaching HER children that alcohol should not be consumed any more than I am wrong for teaching my child that alcohol is fine if consumed responsibly. Different strokes.

    Nanci is only wrong if those beliefs extend to (a) condemning those who drink as evil or bad or (b) trying to control how others raise their children and their alcohol consumption.

  49. Donna January 10, 2013 at 5:46 am #

    Compare alcohol to driving.

    In my state, you can legally drive a car all by your lonesome at age 16. However, we don’t just hand you a license on your 16th birthday and say “okay, now that you are 16, you are capable of handling this as I’m sure you learned everything about being a responsible driver by watching your parents.” Instead, we give you a whole year to legally drive with a responsible adult in the car to teach you the ropes. And we give you your license at such an age where those responsible adults still have some control. They can take away driving privileges if you are not acting responsibly. They can determine that you are not ready for the responsibility of driving freeways and limit where you go. Heck, they can decide that you are not responsible enough for a license at all and you need to wait another year or two.

    Now for drinking – something infinitely more dangerous than driving apparently since it is another 5 years before we trust you with it at all – you are supposed to stay 100% away from it until the day you turn 21 at which point you are given completely unfettered access and we just assume that you learned everything you need to know by watching all those years. And there is no control mechanism outside of being arrested. Those responsible adults who taught you to drive responsibly can’t stop you from drinking as you’ve been a legal adult for 3 years. You may not have even lived with them full time in 2-3 years.

    It certainly makes more sense to me to try to coach our children in responsible alcohol consumption BEFORE they are given unfettered access, even if technically illegal. I’d rather her first taste come in small amounts with me and not when she buys 21 shots to ring in her birthday. I’d rather her first good drunk come when I am close enough to help her out if needed (and she really feels free to call) and not when she’s in another state in college and her roommate has abandoned her in a frat house to go home with a cute guy. I’d rather her first good sick/hangover comes when I am there to make sure she gets the connection.

  50. Aimee January 10, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    While at Notre Dame in the early 1990s, the alcohol policy was: no kegs or “multi-liter containers”. No alcohol in the hallways, just keep it in your dorm room. You could really have as much alcohol in your room as you want (regardless of age) so long as you keep the noise level down, and you don’t make a nuisance of yourself. It was your room, and your business, so long as you weren’t being a pain to your neighbors.

    I was extremely young for my grade (I skipped a grade in elementary school). So for most of my freshman year, I was 17. Because Notre Dame is mostly a “residential campus” (frosh are required to live on campus, and a very large percentage live in the dorms all 4 years), I was never in a situation where drinking & driving was an issue (the fun parties were in the dorms. Drinking and stumbling, yes, driving, no.) Yes, I drank in college, but I still graduated with honors. All my close friends did too, and today they are: a principal of a Jesuit high school; two are lawyers; a medical doctor; a college professor; a veterinarian; an investment banker; a nationally-recognized urban planner; a television meterologist. We all did fine.

    I think the really heavy college drinking happens because it’s so verboten. Don’t make it a big deal, and it’s not.

  51. librarian January 10, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    On the subject of monitoring – have you, guys, seen “an i-phone contact for a 13 year old” here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/janell-burley-hofmann/iphone-contract-from-your-mom_b_2372493.html
    What do you think?
    If I got such a gift at 13, I would see it as a perfect opportunity grandstanding :) “thank you very much, mom, but you better hold on to this phone -it has too many strings attached. I’ll get by for now, but when I earn money over the summer, I might buy something less glamorous, but my own. I know you meant well, but this is humiliating. “

  52. BMS January 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    My mom had a policy of “I will come get you anywhere, any time, no questions asked” when I was in high school. Most of my high school friends didn’t drink, so alcohol wasn’t a huge problem. When I was in college but still technically underage I did occasionally drink to excess. But I had learned: stay overnight somewhere, get a designated driver, call mom, anything but drive home drunk or with a drunk.

    Incidentally, my mom never got mad during those summers in college when I stayed out until 4am and came home buzzed. She just got even. She was the queen of getting up at 6 am and banging every pot and pan in the house when she knew you were hung over. You learned quickly the pain of suffering a hangover in her presence. Tended to cut down on the drinking, let me tell you.

  53. Warren January 10, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    The teen brain will only show you as much as you let it. I would hazzard a guess at times their way of looking at things is far superior to ours, for the simple fact they haven’t got 20 yrs of jaded experience.

  54. Jynet January 10, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    I think his mother’s rules about drinking are quite reasonable. In fact they were my rules… and my friend’s rules with her daughter.

    That said, my daughter is much more responsible around alcohol than her daughter is… but that is a difference in their peer groups. (Pointing out the difference that peer groups make!) When making rules for each individual child you must consider that specific child, and their friends and other influences.

    What works for me with my child may not work with you for your child… or even with you for MY child.

  55. Warren January 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Well stated Jynet.

  56. Earth.W January 11, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    Children who are smothered either grow up scared to do anything or they get up to all kinds of mischief.

  57. mollie January 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Anyone seen the Ken Burns documentary “Prohibition”?

    Wonderful series. Just watched it. I recommend it to anyone who imagines there is a “right” and “wrong” when it comes to any human behaviour.

    For me, there is only behaviour that successfully meets the needs of the person who performs it and those around them, and behaviour that does not. Calling the person, or the behaviour, “right” or “wrong” only derails us from understanding what we actually want more of in our society, things like safety, security, well-being, responsibility, consideration, and respect.

    Anyway, the documentary is entertaining and highly informative. I learned things about the 18th amendment, and US history, that I never knew!

  58. Lisa January 13, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Donna said “Nanci, you are talking apples and oranges. There is a difference between being anti-alcohol and instilling those values in your children and simply enforcing a law that you can’t driink until age 21.”

    We ALL have the right to teach our kids our values. For me, that does not mean telling my daughter that all alcohol is evil – I drink, she knows and sees that I drink, and I have even been known to drink to excess on occasion (probably once a year, on a special occasion, with pre-arranged plans for a ride home or to spend the night). Yet I have told her that I expect her not to drink until she is 21. I do not believe that alcohol is bad, and I will not tell her that it is. I DO believe that upholding the law is important, and that if we feel strongly that a law is unfair it’s ok to work to change it but not to break it. Those are MY values, and I think it is completely reasonable for me to share them with my child. Yes, I drank in college; I will not lie about that, and I also share my opinion that it wasn’t a great decision, but that I was young and didn’t always make good decisions, and I hope she will be better than I was but that if she makes mistakes, she can always count on me. I did not drink in high school; I don’t believe that “all teens will drink”, or that “all teens will have sex”. I *do* believe that sex outside of a long-term, committed, monogamous, life-long relationship is wrong, and I will absolutely be telling my daughter that many, many times.

    I don’t believe in “spying” on kids, but I DO believe it’s ok to check up on them as long as they know in advance that it’s a possibility. I check my kid’s backpack occasionally (I don’t always get what is supposed to come home, and once or twice she’s brought things to school without permission). She has a protected email account which sends me copies of all incoming/outgoing emails, and blocks messages from people not in her contacts until I approve them – she KNOWS that, though, and knows that I chose it as an alternative to not letting her use the internet unsupervised. I look at her browsing history occasionally (mostly when I’m using the iPad for something else and happen to glance at recently visited sites), and the recent searches she’s done have been great conversation starters in some cases. I trust her, and she knows I do, therefore there is no real reason for me NOT to look at what she’s doing – I assume that there is nothing bad there, so I just look because I am interested.
    Now, if I found a BB gun, or alcohol, or anything else dangerous, things might change. Most likely, though, we’d have a conversation, I’d explain why she shouldn’t have whatever it is, and she would learn or ask more questions until she “got” it. I know my kid, though, and that’s how she is – she wants to be trusted, she usually makes good choices, and she’s more than willing to learn when she doesn’t because she WANTS to be independent and responsible, and takes pride in being the kid who makes good decisions. The really important thing, IMO, is knowing your own kid, and making parenting decisions that work for the entire family.

  59. Andrew Jones January 13, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    Well, maybe I’m missing something here. Even in Canada legal drinking age is “The age at which you can be sold alcohol”. To the best of my knowledge there is *NOTHING* in the laws of Canada or the US that states it is illegal to injest alcohol below this age – just that it is not legal to *sell* it to you, or to any person that you suspect is merely buying it to give to someone underage attempting to circumvent the law.

    If *injestion* of alcohol were illegal, than all of us of a certain age broke the law at a very young age – when we were kids, the primary solvent in many cough syrups was alcohol…..


  60. Warren January 14, 2013 at 1:50 am #

    Funny how so many people think it is okay to check their kids bags, and such.

    I haven’t seen the inside of their bags, except on the day I buy it. Don’t need to pry, or go looking.
    1. kids come home from school.
    2. how was school?
    3. any notes?
    4. any homework?
    5. take the dogs out.

    Simple conversation, that works as a minor reminder, but still makes them responsible for their homework, school notices and lunch bags. Lunch bags are the easiest because the dogs usually get the leftovers, that are non chocolate.

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