Friday, February 12, 2010

The home telephone vs. social media

I remember a time when you would talk for hours on the home phone with friends. There wasn't much to say, since you had just seen them hours before, but that didn't stop the long conversations from taking place. You would talk until your parents got so mad that they would hang up for you or you would get the look that said, either hang up the phone now or I will cut the cord and you will never call anyone ever again. Do you remember that? Ok, well I wasn't one of those who abused the phone, but I had plenty of friends that did. As I became an adult and met parents with teenage kids, I would hear that same story told to me from the parent's perspective. I told myself when I become a parent, I will have strict policies about phone use. Only certain hours of the day could the phone be used for recreational use. Children needed to check in with me regarding all phone calls. All calls would originate from the kitchen and parents would be privy to all conversations. Well, I have kids that are into their teenage years now, so I was all ready with my phone rules. Unfortunately for me, the rules have now changed. I am now having to come up with new rules to deal with the way teens are communicating today.

First came the cell phone. Actually, I have been in favor of my kids having one of these. With their ever increasing schedule, it is good to be able to get in touch with them, especially when dad knows he is going to be late for a pickup. That never happens, but knowing they can get ahold of me or vise versa is very important. Then came texting. Jury is still out on the importance of this for the well being of the kids. Things can be said in a text that wouldn't be said in person. Inappropriate texting is also a big issue for me. I check my kids text messages to make sure I know who they are talking to and what is being said. I have begun texting myself and find it to be an easy way to communicate with others. I started texting when my sister-in-law said it would be a good way to relate to my kids and she was right. It is kind of fun to send a quick message and the response from your kids is "you are a dork!" Picture mail is not something that we allow. With all the sexting going around, I totally wanted that restricted. I don't even send picture mail.

The cell phone was my warm up to what would come next, social media. My wife is in the communication field and social media describes all those networking sites. For my daughter, that means facebook. When she turned 13, we told her she could have a facebook page. Actually, she didn't even want one, but some of her out of town friends had their own and they wanted to keep in touch with her, so we suggested that she get one. At first, it was just one word answers back and forth between a few girls, but now her friend list has grown and is almost more than mine. Now, not only do I need to check her text messages, I have to read her facebook page. You see, the rule was, that if she got a facebook page, I got her login and password and could check it anytime I wanted. That keeps her honest about what she writes, but lets her talk with her friends. We also have a rule about who she can be friends with. Her mom and I told her that just because someone wants to be her friend, it doesn't mean that she has to allow it, so she will ask us about some kids that ask to be her friend.

I have been happy with how our kids have handled texting and now facebook. I think that is because we have given our kids good guidelines to follow and they know they will be held accountable for their actions. After reading some messages that were texted or posted on facebook, I know that some parents do not have these same guidelines with their kids. When kids aren't being held accountable, that is when problems arise.

So, now we have new rules for texting and facebook. When I was a first time parent, I never imagined either of these two things. I suppose there will be new technology in the future that my wife and I will have to deal with and come up with even more rules and accountability. I am up for the challenge. If you ever want to talk about coming up with your own rules, feel free to call me at home. No one ever uses that anymore.

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