Don't be afraid to take their phones away when they defy you. Rules aren't rules when they're not enforced.
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 30 years


Parents, time to get a clue

September 22, 2013

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, The Post-Standard

You have a lot of responsibilities as a parent. You have to teach, show by example, encourage, protect, guide and, yes, discipline.

Except when your kids are using computers and phones. For many Americans, those two things are off limits to parental responsibilities. It's not because parents don't care. It's all a matter of fear and embarrassment.

Am I hitting close to home? Think about it. All those gadgets, smartphones and tablets were developed when you were looking elsewhere -- when you were struggling to pay the bills, trying hard to bring up babies. New stuff is hard enough. New stuff that pushed you aside while you were coping with real life is just plain scary. It's no wonder that many of us who grew up in another era are unacquainted with all this stuff. Maybe we're even afraid of it.

Fear and embarrassment, right? It hurts to hear it like that. But think about it: When's the last time you started fidgeting when the topic turned to posting a photo on the web? That's not awkwardness, my friend. Awkward is when you try on your old sweater and find out it's much too small. That's embarrassment, the feeling you have when you realize you're clueless about something others obviously know.

But keep in mind that most of those others are 14 years old. It's not your fault, but it's definitely time to get a clue. You've been outclassed, out keyboarded, out maneuvered and "outsided" by what your kids have been learning and doing. You need to wise up.

Start by doing the hardest thing possible: Show an interest in what's going on in your kids' lives. Ask them what's on their screens. Be real. Don't pretend you care. If you think your kids don't know when you're faking it, you don't know your kids.

And maybe that's true. Do you really know them? I have three generations of kids. I don't know them well enough. You know what I mean. It's embarrassing writing about this. But I'm trying to muddle through, trying to be straight with you.

And that's exactly what you need to do for your kids. Be straight. Kids know already that adults are out of the loop. You don't need to explain that to them. But you do need to cross over the bridge. (They can't do that. They're kids. They don't understand any of this. Trust me.)

Start by catching on to what they do with their computers and phones -- and tablets, too, of course. Don't snoop. Adults don't like snoops, and kids hate them. Do simple things to keep informed. Tell them you'd feel better if they kept their doors open when they're online. Don't encourage them to do sneaky things. They love you, and they like it when you show you care.

Tell them you need to be strict about a couple of things, such as no "sexting" from their phones. None. Ever. Tell them not to send anything they wouldn't be willing to show on a billboard. And don't be afraid to take their phones away when they defy you. Rules aren't rules when they're not enforced. But mostly, act like your kids are playing in the road. If you can't get them back on the sidewalk, watch for cars. Show them you're not afraid to learn how to protect them. They're irreplaceable, and so are you.