A Mom on Why She Doesn’t Monitor Her Kids’ Texts Anymore


My buddy Michelle Icard, author of Middle School Makeover, read the recent blog post here about  the app that lets you watch your kid’s every move on a smartphone, and sent me this article of hers that just ran in the Washington Post. She’s talking about a social media panel she was on:

When we hover over our kids’ social interactions, on high alert to catch each mistake and steer them back on course, we squelch their internal barometer for embarrassment and guilt.

Had my mom listened to all my conversations and called my behavior out into the light, I might not have learned to read my moral compass. Instead, I imagine I would have gotten angry at her because it’s easier to feel angry than embarrassed. I would have focused my emotions on the betrayal and the injustice of having been exposed, rather than wallowing in – and learning from – my own guilt.

The other panelist disagreed., “I would want to know if my kids were misbehaving.”

To which I thought, “Really?” Why do we want to know everything our kids are thinking or saying or doing?

I don’t think we actually DO want to know all that. I think we feel we SHOULD know it, lest we overlook some dire warning sign. The real idea today seems to be that if you CAN know all but choose NOT to and “something bad happens,” you will wallow forever in regret.

Regret is pretty much the worst emotion there is, combining as it does sorrow and self-recrimination along with an inability to change a damn thing. Regret is the Band-Aid being perpetually torn off.

But there’s an alternative to spying on your kids (even with their permission). It’s called talking and hoping. Talk to your kids, so you have a little sense of what’s going on in their lives. And then hope.

Hope may sound dumb, but it’s not dumber than despair, which is sort of negative hope squared, succumbing to the idea that your kid is one text away from tragedy.

We have never been able to know everything that is going on, internally or externally, in their lives. They are grateful for this and, without knowing it, so are we. It gives both generations room to breathe. And grow. And hope. - L.


Hey...my mom just told me to tell your mom that we are having an inappropriate conversation.

Hey…my mom just told me to tell your mom that we are having an inappropriate conversation.


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58 Responses to A Mom on Why She Doesn’t Monitor Her Kids’ Texts Anymore

  1. Warren October 14, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    I have always said, that if you have to monitor texting, social media, and other forms of communications, you are the one with the failings and the problems.

    You have to teach your kids and give them the tools, for life. That includes their social life. Then you have to trust them to do what is right. And don’t give me the “it is not them, it is others that I worry about”, crap. Because if you have given them the knowledge and the tools, then when they get something questionable from others, they will do the right thing.

    If you are looking for guarantees, then you should not have become parents.

  2. AmyO October 14, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    This hit the nail on the head. Everyone needs privacy. The part in the article when the mother was monitoring the kids’ conversations was just weird. First of all, you don’t have anything better to do then follow your son’s conversation? Isn’t Friends on or something? Can you imagine being watched by someone in authority all the time? Not being able to even tell a fart joke without someone tsking your behavior.

    And everyone needs to be able to make mistakes! It’s a GOOD thing when kids mess up, even when they don’t get in trouble. They are SUPPOSED to feel bad and embarrassed about it. It’s called developing a conscience. The memory of how it feels to get caught sneaking out, cheating, even making fun of someone else is a better deterrent than the threat of punishment. We want them to experience that twist in the stomach when they’ve made a mistake.

  3. Marie October 14, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    What they say or send to their friends is their business, not mine. I don’t (never have) monitor my teens’ texts and if anyone understands the dangers, it is my family. My husband, their dad, is in prison on child porn charges.

    We talk a lot about how easily privacy disintegrates. We talk about cases where kids are in trouble for child porn because they exchanged photos of themselves with their significant others. We TALK.

    Do I think they always do the right thing? Heck no. Do I think they will be good people anyway? Absolutely.

  4. Brooks October 14, 2015 at 11:49 am #

    I don’t monitor their texts, and I second what Warren said. I also refuse to track my kids using the “fine my phone” feature. It creates a culture of distrust with the kids, and they will be more likely to test the boundaries because of the challenge it presents. I have some friends who have learned this the hard way.

  5. Gina October 14, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    Warren: For once I agree with you 100%. I don’t even have anything to add. 🙂

  6. Vicky October 14, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    If I were still the parent of school age children, they absolutely would not have cell phones. Don’t care what argument a parent tries to make sound good, they simply can’t ‘reasonably’ justify them. It boils down to helicopter parents appeasing their child. They don’t need it. How many generations of children grew up without one and survived to tell the tale? The damage they’ve caused society is unequitable. Just try to find a pay phone. Cell phone killed the pay phone and helped kill the postal service. Now we are available and ‘on duty’, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The social ramifications of constant distant media interaction isn’t good. There’s little ‘face’ time compared to before cellphones. I saw an ad depicting of the Titanic going down and instead of people helping other people, they were all using their cellphones to video record and take pics. Even the ones already in the water. People die from texting;
    Texting and Driving Statistics

    Texting while driving is a growing trend, and a national epidemic, quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers. Drivers assume they can handle texting while driving and remain safe, but the numbers don’t lie.

    Texting While Driving Causes:

    1. 1,600,000 accidents per year – National Safety Council
    2. 330,000 injuries per year – Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study
    3. 11 teen deaths EVERY DAY – Ins. Institute for Hwy Safety Fatality Facts
    4. Nearly 25% of ALL car accidents

    Texting While Driving Is:

    1. About 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated
    2. The same as driving after 4 beers – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
    3. The number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers

    Texting While Driving:

    1. Makes you 23X more likely to crash – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
    2. Is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time – VA. Tech Transportation Institute
    3. Takes place by 800,000 drivers at any given time across the country
    4. Slows your brake reaction speed by 18% – HumanFactors & Ergonomics Society
    5. Leads to a 400% increase with eyes off the road

    Research Articles

    Alleged Federal Coverup Of Data: http://drivingwhiletextingaccidents.com/2010/05/texting-while-driving-research/
    Death By Text:http://gpssystems.net/texting-dangerous-driving/

  7. Curious October 14, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    How do you feel about intercepting and opening your children’s birthday cards, Xmas gifts? Searching for and reading their diaries? I was stunned to see my niece open her daughter’s mail. The child wasn’t present. I couldn’t bring myself to send anything to that household after that. I assume this was common practice among that era of protective parents.

  8. Reziac October 14, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    I have often said that the most important thing you can give your children isn’t love, or security, or education, or a nice home, or any of the usual things parents think of as necessity.

    The most important thing is privacy.

    Privacy is what tells a kid that they are a person, trusted, capable of doing right, and therefore they matter to their parents.

    Lack of privacy tells a kid that they are property, untrustworthy, and cannot do anything right, therefore don’t matter to anyone.

    If you want to take away a child’s sense of self and destroy their desire to earn your trust — take away their privacy. Snoop in their every thought and action. Adults forget how much it sucked to be a kid with no life of your own, regarded as constantly in need of supervision because you can do no right.

  9. James Pollock October 14, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    I didn’t monitor my daughter’s texts, but I did establish that I had the authority to do so, if she gave me a reason to.

  10. John October 14, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    Here’s my take on the situation. Now I don’t have any kids of my own but if I did and my YOUNG teenage kid was acting strange or I somehow suspected he or she were engaging in nefarious activities, then yes, I think I’d have a right to peek at his text messages and/or internet activities, particularly if I’m paying for their data plan and since it’s my kid, I’d be responsible for him/her. BUT, it would have to be an extreme case because even kids have a right to privacy. If my son, for example, texted his girlfriend and told her that she was beautiful and the best thing that ever happened to him, I would find that charming BUT my son might be embarrassed to have his father read that. I think parents need to respect that emotion coming from their kids.

    It’s amazing that we all gripe about the NSA spying on us and that we’re Americans and the Constitution allows us to have a reasonable degree of privacy, yada, yada, yada, but yet we don’t seem to believe that our kids have this same right. So then you have parents who micromanage their kids’ social activity under the guise that they’re kids and they have that right and responsibility to do so. I don’t think that’s a good thing and it gets down to what I say and have always said and will continue to say, and that is in America when it comes to children, we act as if the constitution does not apply.

  11. lollipoplover October 14, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    Seriously, who has TIME to stalk their children? Or interest?

    Sorry, luxuries like cell phones and driving privileges come with expectations of responsible use and consequences. Don’t give kids who aren’t mature enough or responsible enough access to technology you don’t trust them with- it’s a recipe for disaster. You wouldn’t give a driver’s license to someone not ready to drive. If you can’t trust them to maintain civil conversations, don’t give them the phone.

    I don’t monitor my children’s devices but do use the threat of random audits to keep them on their toes. We talk all the time about what is going on in the real world and the online world of social media (a scary place for teens to navigate). We abide by the golden rule (both adults and children) not to say or text anything you are not willing to say to a person’s face and treat others the way we would want to be treated.

    I WOULD want to know if my kids were misbehaving but reading too far into text conversations without the proper context is a recipe to create a CRAZY parent. I know a mom who is constantly bemoaning on Facebook the unfairness of her daughter’s friends on Instagram and every perceived slight against her daughter’s feelings. She is fueling the fire and causing drama where none existed. Every group picture posted that her daughter was not invited is “excluding”.

  12. lollipoplover October 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    “If I were still the parent of school age children, they absolutely would not have cell phones.”

    My oldest is 14 and in 9th grade. At age 8, we gave him a long range walkie talkie as he biked to school every day. When he was 12, he got a Trac phone that had basic call and text functions. He graduated to a “smartish” phone that was durable and dependable but inexpensive. This summer, with his own money, he bought an iphone. My husband and I don’t even have iphones. We wanted it for school as they do many high school applications (he gets flash cards to study for exams on his iphone) and group projects utilizing Facetime and other apple programs all the time. I am blown away by the technology. For him, it IS a necessity and valuable resource.

  13. sexhysteria October 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    CPS should start monitoring parents’ every move to quickly arrest any parent who misbehaves.

  14. bmommyx2 October 14, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    I agree. My kids have tablets & watch videos & play games & I don’t hover over & watch their every move. I don’t use any kind of parent controls either because it tried once & they couldn’t do anything. If I hear something I’m not OK with I call them on it. My son knows he can’t use his real name or tell anyone anything identifiable about himself. He doesn’t have email or a phone. It will be harder as he gets older & there will be a learning curve for both of us.

  15. BL October 14, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    “CPS should start monitoring parents’ every move to quickly arrest any parent who misbehaves”

    We the people should be monitoring the CPS and every other government agent.

  16. hineata October 14, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

    There is a ‘find your phone’ app? I need that installed on my kids’ phones, so they can find mine….I’m always losing the stupid thing!

  17. Havva October 14, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    Of course a school aged youngster doesn’t need a cell phone. I took flack a while back for defending the Meitivs not giving their kids a cell phone. But you know what else your school age “kid” doesn’t need? They don’t need to drive!

    Also they don’t need vacations, or nice clothing. They don’t need favorite foods. They don’t need toys. They don’t need ……….. a long laundry list of things. If you love your children at all, I’m sure I could identify things you have given them, or allowed them to have, that you “simply can’t ‘reasonably’ justify”. But you won’t have to justify those choices to me, because I don’t think everyone needs a perfect reason for every single thing they let their kids have or do.

    Yes texting and driving can and does kill. It is something that I will make very certain my kid is aware of before learning to drive. I’m laying the groundwork already. For a long time I told her why I can’t look at what she wants to show me while I am driving. I finally turned it around and asked her. “Why can’t I look?” She responds “You are driving.” I say: “And what do I have to do when I’m driving.” and she responds “Keep your eyes on the road.” … “Good, and if I don’t keep my eyes on the road what can happen?” “We could crash.” “And that would be bad because?” “Crashes kill.” She is 4, she is learning.

    If she still doesn’t believe it when she is a teen and I find out she is texting and driving… well you can rest assured it is the 2 ton killer I will be focused on. Because there will always be distractions, electronic or otherwise. But there will always be only one responsibility when operating a machine that can maim or kill, to control that machine.

  18. hineata October 14, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    Oh, so there really is…..and the comments are a bit sickening. Having said that, I will get someone to install it for me ☺.

    I will open a certain type of one daughter’s mail when she’s out if she gives me permission (obtained by phone or text), chiefly because it is usually easier for me to change appointment dates etc…..I am home more often during the day. All other family mail is strictly for the person intended. …though who gets much these days ☺.

  19. Randy October 14, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    I tell my kid the same thing I told my employees: I don’t monitor what you do online, but you should know that if I want to, I can. The implication being that as long as expectations are met, I’m fine, and besides, I have more important things to do.

  20. Dhewco October 14, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    Kids don’t need cell phones? No, I suppose not. While I grew up okay without one, I can count on my hands and need my feet the times I could have used one. That time someone tried to get me into a car outside the arcade (I was a kid and eventually distracted by other things, so not traumatic…but I wonder who he actually managed to pull in. Of course, I could have asked the owner of the arcade to call the cops…at the time I thought that it would get me in trouble somehow. After all, the car drove off. I was safe. It is only in retrospect that I wonder if a cell phone would have made a difference.)

    Also, a friend was with other friends (I was elsewhere) and swam in the local river…drowned. Some think he was suicidal at 12, others think he simply caught the belt holding up his cutoffs on a underground root/tree branch. Man, a cell phone would have come in handy about then. It probably wouldn’t have saved him, but it could have comforted the people on the bridge to know help was coming. (They had to send someone 5 miles to the city cops, have them contact ambulance and county cops…then drive back and hope the half-drunk adults’ cpr was having an effect). A cell phone would have saved 10/15 minutes.

    So no, they’re not ‘necessary’ and we all survived without them. Well, not all, but you have a point. To me, I got my girl’s cell phones for emergencies. They’re adults now and they never had to call services, but I feel better knowing they had the help.

  21. Vicki Bradley October 14, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    I was happy to read this article, as I’ve been feeling quite conflicted about whether or not I should be checking on my 13-year-old daughter’s phone and Instagram accounts. My impulse has been not to but then you hear about sexting and sexploitation in the media, which can be scary in worst case scenarios. Also, as AmyO mentioned, who has time to monitor every conversation. I sure wouldn’t have appreciated my parents listening in to my phone conversations when I was a teenager over 30 years ago. I hope and trust that her dad and I have instilled a good sense of values in her, and that her moral compass is fully functional. It is due to following the free-range way of life that I feel that I can trust her, as she has never felt that she has to rebel or sneak behind my back, as I’ve given her a lot of leeway and freedom. Hopefully, this will pan out for the future…

  22. Warren October 14, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    Try and find a payphone these days. My wife forgot her phone at home the other day, and it took her over 45 mins to find a payphone, and when she did, it was out of service.

    Like guns, cellphones are not the cause of the deaths. It is the person using the tool/device. If you cannot teach your young drivers not to text and drive, you’re not doing your job.

  23. EricS October 14, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    Bam! Warren. Bam!

    Again, it comes down to the adults and their own fears and insecurities. Whether they realize it or not, a big part of them is projecting what’s within them onto their children. They don’t trust themselves, so they don’t trust their kids. And if they can’t trust themselves, they shouldn’t be having kids. And as you mentioned, if you taught your children proper, they will make the right decisions. Or at least think before acting. And that is half the battle won.

  24. EricS October 14, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    @Vicki B: If it’s any consolation, I and all my friends grew up with little to no restrictions (within reason of course). Many of us didn’t have a curfew. We came and went as we pleased, so long as our parents knew where we were going, and with whom. Sure they protested, and said “no you can’t”, but ultimately allowed us to anyway. Because of this, we felt less inclined to take advantage.

    Many seem to forget their own childhood. Where if you we were told no, we were more inclined to rebel and sneak around. But because our parents were laxed, there was that part of us that felt guilty trying to deceive our parents. We didn’t always tell the truth, but we mostly worked at not disrespecting our parents. So we always thought before doing. “What if my parents found out?”, which made us re-think if we should or shouldn’t. Some went ahead and did certain things, the rest of us didn’t. “Another time”, is what I often thought. Because there was always another time. By that point, I’ve already either hinted, or spoke to my parents (in a round about way), those situations. And because they hear that I chose not to partake, even if they didn’t say it, I knew they were proud and happy. Which in turn, gave me more freedom. It was a give and take relationship with me and my folks.

    That’s pretty much how I was conditioned to be. And it’s served me well from a kid to full grown adult (but I’m still a kid at heart. ;-)) It’s also what I teach my own. And I’m seeing the similarities in how he reacts, and what he does. I make it so that he can prove me right about believing in and trusting him. There will always be obstacles in our children’s lives, we can’t clear them all no matter how hard we try. But as long as we give them a good solid base to build on within themselves, we won’t have to clear the obstacles, they’ll traverse around it or through themselves. With us in the sidelines just in case they need support.

  25. Vince L October 14, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    Wonder if these same parents who want to monitor their kids have any issue with the government monitoring them?

  26. John October 14, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Exactly Vince!

  27. Britni October 14, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

    Hmmm, as a mom who had a different experience than many on here, I would like to comment.

    Two years ago I was balled by my daughter’s junior high principal, to warn me that he’d heard she was being bullied online. I thought this odd, but decided to check her texts. Turns out she was mooning over some boy who already had a girlfriend, but decided to *really* get his attention by telling him she was cutting herself (she wasn’t) and was potentially suicidal.

    I couldn’t keep it to myself, and confronted her. She just looked sheepish and ashamed, and couldn’t give a good reason for her behavior, other than wanting his attention.

    This was a 12 year old who had been a straight A student through school, winning awards for citizenship and good sportsmanship…

    We had a good talk. I have generally tried to avoid looking since, and have used that experience as a springboard for more openness…

    But sometimes it does pay to check,

  28. Warren October 14, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    Some mentioned other members of the family opening mail, not addressed to them. That is just absolutely wrong.

    Same with purses and wallets. We respect each other’s privacy and space. If I need the cash she has, I bring her purse to her, and she does the same with my wallet. Privacy and respect go hand in hand.

  29. hineata October 14, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    @Warren ‘ depends on the purpose for reading the mail, and whether, more importantly you have permission to do so prior to the event. But yes, I agree with your principle.

    Money, though….I think some of this is cultural. I have no problem with my husband and kids rifling my bag for money if they ask first….☺

  30. Quantum Mechanic October 14, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    I think “no need for kid to have a phone” is easier said than done.

    For example, one of my co-workers had long not given his teen daughter a phone. Not for any moral or whatever reason, but simply because he didn’t want to bear the cost.

    However, he eventually broke down and got her a phone that at least texted.


    Because his daugher was being socially excluded.

    NOT for any “ewwwww, we don’t want to be around Janie who’s so uncool she doesn’t even have a phone” reason.

    Rather, because at least at that school in that age group, all the social arrangements (“hey, let’s go see XYZ at the theater Friday night”, and the like.) are done via texting. Without a phone she was shut out of all that. So my coworker got his daughter the phone.

    Now, one can like or not like the fact that at that school kids who couldn’t text were shut out, but at some point you have to take the world as it is and decide what works best for your family.

  31. Warren October 14, 2015 at 6:33 pm #


    It isn’t just money, it is anything. My wife will call from another room and ask me to grab whatever in her purse. I bring her the purse. In married life there are very few things that are one’s private space. We never discussed it, it just sort of just is, but purses and wallets are that way.

    I have asked her if she had someone’s phone number on her phone, and when she said yes, l take the phone to her. It is her phone, her contacts and so on.

    The way I see it with mail, unless that person is out of town for an extended period, there is nothing in the mail that cannot wait until they get home. If it was that urgent, they would not have sent it in the mail.

  32. Michelle October 14, 2015 at 7:19 pm #

    “If I were still the parent of school age children, they absolutely would not have cell phones. Don’t care what argument a parent tries to make sound good, they simply can’t ‘reasonably’ justify them. It boils down to helicopter parents appeasing their child. They don’t need it.”

    LMFAO. Since when does anyone need to “justify” spending their own money on things they want to buy for their children? Of course kids don’t NEED cell phones. I don’t need one, either. But I want it, I can afford it, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t have it.

    My kids don’t NEED the giant trampoline I bought them for Christmas last year. Is that “appeasing” them? What if they fall off and hurt themselves? What if someone breaks an arm? Oh noes! And they didn’t NEED it, but I bought it for them anyway! The horror!

    And how exactly does a cell phone = helicopter parents if we don’t use it to check up on them?

    As far as opening mail, honestly, the vast majority of the mail that comes addressed to my kids isn’t really for them. My 7yo does not care if I open his health insurance card when it comes in the mail, and he sure as heck doesn’t want to pay the bill for those stitches on his chin. The only mail they get that’s actually for them is birthday cards, and the occasional package of something I bought for them off of Amazon.

  33. Michelle October 14, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

    Warren, I know some people feel that way about purses / wallets / etc., but it’s definitely not a universal feeling. If I told my husband he could have money that was in my purse, and he brought me my purse and made me dig through to get it, I’d be ticked off. Just get the damn money. Ditto for going through my cell phone. He knows the password. If my phone is closer to him than it is to me, don’t make me get up and do it! To me it would seem petty and obnoxious.

    Luckily, my husband and I feel the same way about it, so there’s no conflict.

  34. Alex October 14, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    @Vicky I think that if you still had school-aged kids you might think differently about the necessity of cell phones to normal teenage social interaction in today’s world. Quantum Mechanic is right; choosing not to let your kid have a cell phone is choosing to socially isolate them. And it keeps them from learning basic skills now expected of every adult. As young adults, they will need to use cell phones constantly to connect to peers, coworkers and bosses, professors, and the rest of the world. They need to learn social norms of phone usage (turn it off at a job interview or a serious date, text with a simple question instead of calling, don’t text and drive, use Snapchat for the embarrassing pics, and a thousand other rules written and unwritten). Besides, a growing number of homes don’t even have a landline, so how are the kids going to talk on the phone? Do you think most parents want to get texts meant for their teenagers on their own phones at all hours?

    Sure, plenty of previous generations grew up before cell phones. The same could be said of clothing, books, sports, and electricity. Since you are leaving comments on a blog, your family probably isn’t Amish. Teens should have the opportunity to learn skills like driving that are dangerous, not strictly necessary, and yet essential to full participation in society.

    If you’re not familiar with how central phones are in connecting kids today, there’s a researcher named danah boyd who’s done some very interesting ethnographic work on young people’s use of digital networking: http://www.danah.org/

  35. Donna October 14, 2015 at 9:13 pm #

    Regular monitoring and spying is unacceptable, but if I strongly suspected that my child had a serious, life-damaging problem, I would check her phone/email/browser history as a last result if I couldn’t get her to open up to me. There is a huge difference between “I am going to check up on my child regularly to make sure she isn’t misbehaving” and “I have a legitimate belief that my child is in serious trouble and I need to figure out what it is going on before it is too late.”

  36. hineata October 14, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

    @Warren – yeah, like Michelle that’s just the way our family has always done things, when it comes to wallets etc. Different strokes for different folks etc ☺.

  37. The other Mandy October 14, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

    When I was in 9th grade, my mom snooped my diary. 27 years later, I have not forgiven this breach of privacy. In my home, my husband and I will give each other permission to get money from each other’s wallets, but I would never do so without asking. I don’t use his computer. I don’t read his email. I don’t open his mail. My kids will gradually earn privacy rights ( they are little kids still) as they learn responsibility. Of course if I had a very good reason to be worried, I’d check up; but I would have to have a REALLY good reason. I do the same with my employees.

  38. jennifer October 15, 2015 at 12:47 am #

    uhm… @Vicky my school aged kids have a cell phone is just them having a phone. We don’t have a land line, thus their access to the outside world is through a phone. This is the *opposite* of helicoptering. It is so they can stay home alone as needed/desired. Additionally when they begin babysitting (usually around 11, still school aged) it is expected that they bring the phone with them because the houses they are babysitting in also do not have landlines. This has zero to do with appeasement or texting while driving – they are school aged kids after all.

  39. andy October 15, 2015 at 4:07 am #

    @Quantum Mechanic I fully agree. I was among the last to get cell phone among my peer group at the college and lack of one really can make you miss most activities. While my friends made the effort to reach me when it was practical enough, that still meant I did not knew about something is happening on most of the time. Not everyone, especially elementary and high school kids, is lucky enough such a good group of friends, so they may end up isolated entirely.

    When everyone has a phone, activities are organized more on whim with little advance notice. Because that is easy and practical with phone. If you are the only one who does not have a phone, you

    @EricS “Many of us didn’t have a curfew. We came and went as we pleased, so long as our parents knew where we were going, and with whom. Sure they protested, and said ‘no you can’t’, but ultimately allowed us to anyway.”

    I have to say that parenting standards in here were way different. I knew only one kid that “came and went as we pleased” and it was the generally problematic one that barely finished trade school. While some parents were more lax then others, that had to do with when exactly you are supposed to be at home not with whether you are supposed to be there at all. We went to dance and such, but parents were informed.

    And seriously, my parents were never super strict, but I would not dare to sneak around in the evening. That would be really out acceptable lines.

  40. Irina October 15, 2015 at 4:11 am #

    What a great way to think about this issue! I don’t have teenagers, but I want my child to learn right and wrong, embarrassment and guilt of their own accord. I’m actually very worried about the teenage years, technology and what that will ever mean in a few years…things seem so much more complicated these days than when I was growing up, albeit in a foreign country. I do believe that you gain trust by trusting, and I agree with your friend!

  41. Warren October 15, 2015 at 8:11 am #

    Like Donna stated, checking up/monitoring is definitely wrong. If there seems to be some issue going on, the first course of action should always be talking with your kid. Going behind their backs to check on their activity should always be a last resort.

    Monitoring their texts, and online activity is no different than going into their room and searching it on a regular basis, or hiding in the bushes and listening to their conversations with their friends.

    I get a kick out of parents that give the justifications, I pay for the phone, I pay for the internet, they live under my roof and so on, as a way of depriving their kids of the basic right to privacy. I hope one day that when these parents are in their twilight years, and have moved back in with their kids, that their kids deprive them of their privacy.

    To me parents going through their kids phone for no other reason than they can, is the same as this crap going on at the border with the authorities being allowed to go through our phones for no other reason than they can. Wrong is wrong.

    There are a lot of parents that are freaked out about texting and online activity, just like they were about kidnapping. And like that wise man once told me, “The most difficult thing a parent must do is set aside their own fear, and not give it to their children.”

  42. Dot October 15, 2015 at 8:32 am #

    We got our 5th grader a phone this year. He knows that we can look at it if we want (we know the passcode) but we don’t monitor it. But considering his age, at this point he’s clear that the phone is really ‘ours’ and he gets to use it at our discretion. When he’s older, and doing more communication with friends (vs communicating mostly through emojis and funny pictures) we will move to a more privacy oriented model.

    On the cell phones for kids thing:
    We’ve been extremely pleased with our decision to get him a phone at 10—, i think it allows us to be MORE free range. I can text him if I’m going to out when he gets home from school, he can text me if he has an issue, or misses the bus, or wants to go to a friend’s house. [When I was a kid, the same thing might have been accomplished by calling home, but this makes it so much easier–where can you find a phone these days!] We can let him roam with friends at neighborhood festivals, and be able to reach him to come back when it’s time to go. And he’s learning to use all the other features of modern life – he puts his school assignments in his calendar, listens to audio books, facetimes with friends (building social skills). Plus he has to practice responsibility to not lose it, and carry it with him all the time.

  43. BL October 15, 2015 at 8:33 am #

    “I hope one day that when these parents are in their twilight years, and have moved back in with their kids, that their kids deprive them of their privacy.”

    The trouble with that is, old people can vote, and politicians will therefore deem that to be “elderly abuse”.

  44. Beth October 15, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    I just read the source article and the comments on it were bizarre – the comments went straight to the apparent proliferation of on-line predators, and how the author isn’t qualified to be on any panel related to children, and it’s a different time now, and even a lecture on learning how your phone works if you don’t think predators can get at your kids via text.

    I feel sorry for kids growing up today, and NOT because I think they’re all going to be lured into sex rings through texting their friends.

  45. Puzzled October 15, 2015 at 8:52 am #

    >Cell phone killed the pay phone and helped kill the postal service.

    It’s worse than that – cars killed the buggy whip industry!

    Regarding the Titanic, I’m not convinced that citing a commercial is all that informative.

    About car accidents – I’ve wondered about this one. I’d like to see the relevant Bayesian calculation to see if cell-phones actually raise the risk of accidents. We can point to raw numbers and percent of accidents where the driver was texting, but if 30% of drivers are texting and 25% of those in accidents are texting…

  46. Evalyne October 15, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    When I was in junior high (c. 2005-06), I spent a fair bit of time using MSN messenger with friends while I worked on homework, and my parents had this rule where they were allowed to kick me off my computer at any time to read and respond to any conversations. I was embarrassed that my parents were so nosy, so I didn’t tell my friends that my parents would sometimes sit down and read our whole conversation (and there wasn’t much that I was worried about them seeing, mostly we talked about school work, books, and TV shows). One afternoon, my friend got up the courage to come out to me over chat, and, of course, 2 minutes later my father comes in for one of his “random conversation checks”. Long story short, my dad ended up telling my friend’s mother that her son was gay, and she subsequently kicked him out of her house, leaving him to walk 10 miles to his cousin’s house to beg for a place to stay. While staying with his cousins, he was subjected to verbal and physical abuse and sexual assault, and had the money he made once he got a part-time job (which he was saving up to rent a room elsewhere) stolen by his cousin’s boyfriend. To this day, I still feel tremendous guilt for what happened to him as a result of my parents’ “random check” policy, which never got me into trouble, but had serious negative effects on my friend. I firmly believe that young people need to be able to have personal conversations in which they can fully trust each other and not be afraid that someone’s parents are going to out them in the name of “safety”. This inability to feel comfort and trust in a friend because of who might be watching can lead to far more bottling up of emotions and feelings that can have terrible consequences when that volcano blows, in addition to general social stunting.

  47. hineata October 15, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

    @Evalyne – how awful! I wonder what possessed your father to think it was any business of his to disclose that sort of thing to the other parent? Suicidal intentions, sure. Notice of intention to do something extremely dangerous…maybe. But just sexuality….they can find that out when they’re told.

    And Donna et al, at what age would it be legal to kick kids out of a house there? I don’t imagine the police here would take kindly to the idea of under 16s being evicted…..

  48. Donna October 15, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    Hineata – Legally you can’t kick your kids out until age 18, but I’ve never seen anyone arrested for kicking out a 16 year old.

  49. SanityAnyone? October 15, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

    Having a hard time with this one. I retain full rights to inspect all electronics but don’t do it often for my 12 and 10 yr olds. There is no monitoring software. This is one case where the kids are not able to just make their mistakes and go on. Instead, every mistake they make is recorded and can be propagated for all time. While I said and did some stupid things between 11 and 14 that I would be ashamed of now, they gracefully faded into the unknown. I do feel we need to help kids maintain a low profile as far as their public image, and to be very careful with every word they place on electronic media. It affects their friends now, how they are viewed by their community and teachers, and will be read by future lovers, employers and enemies (consider their political careers!)

    Furthermore, the content they can access is far more engaging and inappropriate than the little stack of Playboys my sister and I found and explored in my Dad’s bachelor pad. Finally, there are lots of things to want and buy even for the most grounded kid.

    A favorite book about the power of speech is “Words that hurt, words that heal.” From adolescence on, we could probably read snippets of this book with our kids and have some serious discussions about how our words lead to consequences, intended and not. http://www.amazon.com/Words-That-Hurt-Heal-Choose/dp/0688163505

    Currently we are just limiting time to weekends and holidays, “failing” to provide cell phones, and telling them if they run across an inappropriate video or website, to simply move on quickly or ask us about it.

  50. CrazyCatLady October 16, 2015 at 12:08 am #

    My oldest, 15, has a cell phone. It is a Trac Fone and will text…with difficulty as it is a flip phone. She has Face Book at Home. (Yes, I glanced a couple times…but pretty bland stuff. I don’t feel a need to look all the time.) I got her the phone so she could call me to pick her up after school on days when she has clubs and can’t take the bus. I also expect her to take it if she does a dance or overnight. At school….it is is off, 100% of the time.

    At school, they have docking stations for phones so that kids won’t use them during class. She avoids this by keeping hers off. But the funny thing is….I picked her up from school the other day for an appointment. She wasn’t waiting for me and the secretary was reluctant to call the room as she might have been on her way. The secretary told me I should text her to come down to meet me….pretty sure that my daughter and I read the student handbook better than the secretary! The teachers are being nice allowing the kids to dock them….they really are supposed to be off during school hours.

  51. CrazyCatLady October 16, 2015 at 12:13 am #

    BL, but the kids WILL have their revenge when they move the parents into a nursing home where they can’t even have consensual sexual relations with anyone without getting in trouble. Because you know….sex is for the young and good looking, just not TOO young.

  52. hineata October 16, 2015 at 3:39 am #

    @Donna – thanks. Seems pretty rough to boot a kid when he’s not doing anything criminal…

  53. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 11:50 pm #

    “Legally you can’t kick your kids out until age 18”


  54. Shelley October 19, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    I am excited to find this web site. I am genuinely impressed with the optimism here. I am not by any means a free range parent, but I want to say that I agree so much with what I am seeing and hearing as I read.

    I like my parenting style. My problem today is that the schools make so many rules that its hard to keep one’s child, even a conscientious one on the “program”. Mine struggles with punctually, a trait she gets from her mother. She is working on it, and I know she is. I see the difference. I see the struggle. She has great grades and is missing school today, because one more tardy and she will be placed in On Campus Suspension for 2 whole days.

    My issue is that they tell us not to be helicopter parents. So, I back off and give her room to learn. I let her suffer some natural consequences. Then, I get the phone call asking me to stay more on top of her. I am supposed to check her grades regularly, even though they do not affect me. They are about her. I keep an eye on things with my daughter seemed appropriate at the given time depending on her behavior. But, she shares with me. We have this open relationship. So, I have no need to look at her texts really. she tells me about them. She tells me about her classes, and I have to still check it, because I just want to make sure the school has everything down properly.

    But, yes my issue is this that wears me to frazzle. They do the whole “back off and let them learn responsibility”, so I do. Then, I hear I am not involved enough, and I do in her case have to get involved to help with certain issues as she learns. But, as soon as she is ready, I give her space. I do catch myself hovering at times, and I call myself on it. So, no I am no where near free range. But, I think the schools often put parents these days in such difficult position.

    My daughter is scared she will get kicked out, and I know before it gets that far, I would homeschool her. But, that is the last thing she needs. She needs to be in her school. She has earned that with her hard work. She struggles with one thing. Why do schools expect kids to be good at everything? The penalties can be overly harsh. ‘

    I have this crazy idea that moms are not idiots. We know what we are doing . We see our kids. Some of us have taken breaks in very rewarding careers to actually give this there all. Some of us work still, and that is great. But, I will actually get reminded by the school to help her with her homework and monitor it? I will be told exactly where I am failing as a parent, and possibly face court if this goes on. She will face maybe not being able to be in a pace she loves.

    So, I am going out today and buying gazillion alarm clocks. I am also trying to hire someone , yes spend money, to find someone to help me get her to school on time. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I need help. Its that bad. And because the penalties involve risking her being kicked out, I can not use natural consequences, or even rely on y own home consequences to fix it. There can not be another day. Not through the end of May. Not one slip. No pressure.

    So, these are the link we are forced to consider. I guess i could just not listen to memo gut and let them punish her every time until she ends up in alternative school.

    But, yes, I think the reason we are seeing so many people homeschool is that they just get sick of the school being “the man” if you get my drift. The overseer of all we do, the final judge on our worth as parents and our children performance as young people.

    I love schools. I used to work in one. I love it so much. I just now know, seeing it from the parent’s perspective, that sometimes we get tired of the current way its set up.

    I do not know the answer.

    But, I bet if they gave her some chores to do on the campus, let her do some grounds work, for about an hour every time she was late, that would be good. Why make her record go down the tubes?

    But, I digress from the text issue. Its okay to trust your kids. I think they earn that trust, and teaching them how to earn and keep trust is a life lesson of which we should not deprive them.

    Love this site.

  55. Doug October 19, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    Shelley, pick up the book “Free to Learn” by Peter Gray.

    Also, when the school tells you “stay on top of her” and “let her learn responsibility,” you need to deliberately ask the question “Which one?” Because the person on the other side of the conversation is just reading from a script, and hasn’t put any thought into it. You cannot simultaneously stay on top of her and back off. It’s impossible.

  56. JKP October 19, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    Shelley – I can totally relate to your daughter’s struggle waking up in the morning. I spent the first 30 years of my life with 6+ alarm clocks scattered around my bedroom (including one for the Deaf that both vibrated the bed and blared so loudly that the neighbors complained). Yet, I still managed to oversleep my alarms and was always scrambling to get to school/work on time. Once I even managed to sleep through the fire alarms in the middle of the night, and this was when I was the property manager responsible for coordinating with the fire dept when they arrived (I didn’t even know the alarms had gone off until work the next day).

    What finally solved it for me was a sunrise alarm clock. I was able to ditch all my other clocks and only use this one now:
    BioBrite SunRise Alarm Clock

    Basically, 30 minutes before the alarm, the light slowly starts getting brighter until by the time the alarm goes off, the room is brightly lit. The idea is that you wake up gradually for a little while before the alarm, so you’re not in such a deep level of sleep when it is finally time to get up. Maybe it would help your daughter like it helped me.

  57. Shelley October 20, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    Thanks Doug and JKP,

    I hate the cliche “the struggle is real” because its overused, but I do think that the system’s need to maintain a certain record of the performance of our kids, outweighs the need of our young people to learn how to fall down and pick themselves back up. I also, like your point about “which is it?” “Make a decision”, because one can not do both. You are correct. I will remember that when confronted.

    I have taken some time to reflect on yesterdays stuff with my daughter, and I decided to let her get the alarm clocks, and use different methods to wake her. And, yes, I told her that if she was late, she was late, consequences or not. I do think their expectations are unreasonable for a kid who has disabilities mentally, but I have the same exact disability. And, one has to learn as sad as it is how to work the system. I have poor executive functioning skills in the morning, but with coffee and a little exercise, I am one of the toughest workers ever. I practiced mental health before I became a stay at home mom. Parenting is harder! But, what worked for me is finding very stimulating work. I am a super kind person, who everyone pigeon holes as a “Cute work with toddlers lady”, because I am soft spoken usually and very southern. But, I am smart as a whip. And teens just fascinate and irritate the heck out of me. I love them. Interestingly enough, I found that I have had bosses say to me , “clock in whenever and from wherever you want” “We need you. Please, whatever you do, just be there.” My Dad struggles with executive functioning skills as well, so he left accounting and began working to help people learn Quickbooks in offices where he can interact. Does he run late? Yes. Do they care? For about ten minutes, then they are thrilled he is there to save the day and help them get payroll out. He deals with panicked people very well, as do I. And, so yes, punctuality is important, but making yourself irreplaceable, super valuable, is a great thing. Thats how I made it. I was very successful, but I stopped working when I had my daughter. And I find that with schools executive functioning is like everything. So, maybe she will be the first in our family to actually master punctuality other than my sister who has no disabilities. But, imperfection is a part of life for everybody. I am getting to my point. So, anyway, I just think that if she is late and she has to do those 2 days in detention, which I do think is unfair, it may just be something from which I can not protect her, and that is reflective of life. Once I get that 504, oh my the work involved, maybe I can talk them into getting a fresh clean slate. She is working on better management of her condition, and I am thinking that they could recognize that and give her a fresh start on the tardies. Because one more tardy, and 2 whole days in a room for a kid as active and bright and driven as her is counterproductive. I was glad they did it to her that one time. It motivated her. I was thrilled. But, she is still working at it. And, now she is so scared of being late, its ridiculous. That punishment would only cause her to feel defeated. One should not be so afraid to fail or make a mistake in school. Mistakes are how we learn in my opinion. So, thats my point.

    On the phone subject. I believe its at a parents discretion what is best for their kid. I held off longer than most. I started her with an iPad. Then, I let her have a phone 2 years later after she kept up with the iPad. She tells me what is on there, and shows me stuff. I have no need to monitor her. So, its no big deal. And, I think its kind of neat how she can be talking to her friends from Summer camp across the country whenever she wants to have a moment without thinking about school. But, that is me. We are all different. But, if I had to monitor her usage, then, I would probably just take it. Because, its a privilege, and I could take it away. Shoot I take everything away some days. Sometimes she just gets off track and needs to have a readjustment. When we take her electronics, she focuses more on her art and music.

    And I think it important to model appropriate cell phone usage. When driving, if my phone rings, I ask her to take the call. I never ever text and drive. And, I can not imagine how anyone could. I mean, not from a moral standpoint, as much as, how? I mean, I just can not physically and mentally do that.

    Anyway, I am blessed to have great kid, who happens to have a tough time organizing and getting out the door on time. But, she did it today. My priest once told me when I was upset for the way other parents criticized me in church, because I was not as on top of her as other parents. He said to me, “Well, Shelley, she is a work in progress.” In other words, she is supposed to try to walk around the church and climb the pews. I learned to give her crafts to work on and she sat on the kneelers. Of course, thats still not up to other parent’s standards. I should be threatening her within an inch of her life she she does not sit like a statue, and smack her when she moves. Which is barbaric to me. So, my decision before she was even born, was that I would make sure church felt like home. I wold let her roam the halls after service and during the week. Consequently, she never complains about going anymore as a 13 year old. She sleeps with her Bible near her often in her bed. And, she asked to go into the church the other day while it was empty and she sat up by the altar, and played on her flute, “Be Thou My Vision”. She then wondered down the aisle spontaneously playing celtic tunes. No, she is not perfect. She runs late. But she is doggone cool. And church is a real place for her, not a social event with Jesus as the fashion and behavior police. He is her inspiration and her comfort. So, maybe I am not perfect either, but I am allowing her to become her own person. One day at a time. AAAH. That felt good to write. Now if I can just let go today and relax as she tries her next steps in facing her disabilities.

  58. Megan October 21, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    I agree that at some point a kid without a device will be something of an outcast among his peers, and I see that as the best reason to let them have one. I personally think we should teach our kids that different is good, but we don’t want to make them feel like our values should necessarily be theirs. I’m pretty Amish, but my son should decide if that works for him.

    That said, we set up some “urban adventures” for him and some friends when he was nine (one participant was 12 and the others were younger), and they went downtown and other places on public transit on their own. They ate out and paid for entertainment, etc. without help, and I insisted none of them take a cell phone. Why? Because part of the importance of the outing was for them to learn how to ask for help if they needed it instead of turning to someone who wasn’t there. We live in Austin, and loads of people would have been happy to help out some kids in need, and I feel like it’s just as important to be comfortable knowing how to talk to people you don’t know face to face, or get un-lost without GPS, as it is to learn how to use a computer. I think these “adventures” helped the kids involved to be more resourceful.

    As for technology, I believe in moderation. When we give kids devices too young (like calculators), they do not learn the skills those devices do for them. I don’t want my son to have trouble calculating an 18% tip in his head! There is no reason to let that happen.