As a kid, did you ever hide a flashlight under your pillow? Then pull it out after you were supposed to be asleep, so you could sneak in another half-hour of reading?
I did that. A lot.
We have a few smartphone rules in our house: no phones after 9:30 p.m., no phones at the dinner table or other family events, and no phones in bedrooms.
My middle daughter, age 13, read the novel The Outsiders last year. She loved it, and like any good mom who was raised in the 1980s, I bought her a DVD copy of the classic movie. She loved the film version, too.
When we bought a cellphone for our son, we worried. We worried about how it would affect his brain to be hooked into social media all the time. We worried about online bullying and if he’d be respectful and responsible. We worried that he’d become a video screen monster who never looked up and only grunted in response to our questions about his day at the dinner table.
My teens are still young and new to social media, so until now, we’ve mostly been focusing on the risks. Our main message to them has been to be careful, and that less time online is always better.
My three kids all know the password to my phone.
It’s because I rely on them to play secretary for me when I’m driving. If the phone rings or there is a bing of a text, 99% of the time it’s a member of my immediate family trying to get in touch with something relatively pressing.
I work from home, and I think that means my kids get more sick days than the average student. It’s pretty easy for them to convince me that they need a day of rest if they have a bit of a cough or a slight fever. I admit I’m probably too easily swayed and I do tend to cave in when they look up at me with big sad eyes from where they have swooned onto the couch.
Recently, my nephew, age 12, received a letter in the mail. It was addressed to him personally, by name. Inside was a photocopied article about the powers of a new virility medicine, complete with the usual graphic promises for pleasuring the ladies. The article mentioned a specific “doctor” by name, but other than that, there was no contact information or order form or any other action request. It appeared to just be spam but in paper form.
The other day, a friend of my 11-year-old daughter called the house to make arrangements to get together for a group project.
I admit I was hoping to never get an email like this from the school:
“Some students in your child’s class have been involved in inappropriate online behaviour. Our Student Resource Officer will be doing a presentation on cyberbullying and leading a discussion about responsible actions on the internet. Please speak to your child about his/her activity online.”