Letting Kids Grow Up In The Digital Age

from the mom,-stop-calling dept

It’s no secret that digital communications tools have changed certain aspects of parenting. With all the fears about things like MySpace lately, many people point out that parents (rather than governments or schools) need to have some responsibility concerning what their kids do online. The response we get to this is often how it’s impossible to monitor your kids 24/7 — which is absolutely true. However, that misses the point. It’s not about monitoring your kids, but teaching them how to understand right and wrong and trusting them to either do the right thing, or know when they should at least ask for help. Of course, modern technology does allow more monitoring from parents — whether it’s in watching how they surf or limiting how they can use technology. What happens is that concerned parents start letting the technology stand in for good parenting. Perhaps nothing has contributed more to this issue than the mobile phone. In some cases, this means parents using those phones to constantly monitor kids — often making those kids more resentful rather than safe. However, the more common, but perhaps more worrisome, issue is how parents and kids may start using the mobile phone as a crutch. We’ve written for years about concerns that constant mobile phone contact between parents and children make it difficult to cut the apron strings. None of this is easy, of course. It’s difficult to learn how to let go — and that’s driving a big battle in New York City over whether mobile phones should be allowed in schools. Teachers are afraid they’re distracting, kids feel the ban is unfair and many parents are worried about not being able to stay in touch. However, CSMonitor has one of the more rational and reasonable takes on the whole situation, noting that banning mobile phones in schools is pointless and impossible. However, the much more important issue is that parents need to learn how to let their children grow up without feeling the need to stay in constant contact.

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Comments on “Letting Kids Grow Up In The Digital Age”

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I, for one says:

Wild, crazy out-of-control youths!

“CSMonitor has one of the more rational and reasonable takes on the whole situation, noting that banning mobile phones in schools is pointless and impossible.”

Call me old fashioned but isn’t “impossible” a bit strong? I mean, who’s in charge here? I always thought it would be great fun to take a crossbow or chainsaw to school, but you know what, those mean teachers wouldn’t let me.

As you rightly point out the problem is not really with kids, it’s with their parents. That’s *us* by the way. We are the generation thats lost it’s spunk. Is it any surprise that kids can’t respect their elders when all we demonstrate is indecision, compliance and apathy? Kids aren’t stupid, they watch TV, and they watch their parents behaviour and they know the world is going to hell in a basket. They know we sold their future and they know we fear them. But you know the truth? My father said the same about me, and my grandfather said the same thing about him, and so it goes, the universal truth that every generation is a disappointment to their offspring. That’s how the human race moves forward, somehow, by completely failing our children we inspire them to replace us with something better and smarter.

Hautedawg says:

I made it...

I grew up when we made our own noises for the toys, before they embedded sound chips. We didn’t have cell phones, our parents rang a bell, whistled or just yelled for our asses to get back home. My generation did okay, hell…we created the cell phone. I seem to sense children are learning they have a certain entitlement, a certain RIGHT to have these things. Grow a set and take control of your family!

rijit (user link) says:

Bunch of Crap.

The problem is more than parenting. The problem is we live in a materialistic world and we are all just a materialistic girl, err people =P Do you know how to entertain a board 15 year old kid? Well I sure as heck do. Give him/her a video game, just know what your giving them first. Kids today are smart, most are smarter than the parents. Talk to your kids and find out what their into then let em know how you feel about it, just don’t take the lecture tone, my kids tune me out immediately when I do, I can see their eyes glaze over 😉

One of the Tech Gen says:

The thing is not that these technologies are diffrent then anything we’ve had for mediums before, they have just been overhualed and made more efficent and easy to use. TV and movies are the new books, Cell phones and MySpace are the new mail system, and we paly video games instead of tag, its all the same stuff just flashier. Its no harder to raise a child with this stuff than before. As for banning cell phone thats about as immpossible as trying to keep kids from passing notes in class. So parent and my Gen need to come to an understanding that we are both in the fualt when it comes to the handleing of these new techs

KG says:

Moderation in All Things

I don’t live in NY, I live in the South now, and we used to live in AK where you did not need cell phones. When we moved here I immediately purchased my teenager a cell phone despite the fact that I don’t like cell phones AND there is a LAW on the books in this state that does not allow cell phones or beepers in schools (left over from the 80’s, I heard). I also heard they are trying to get it repealed and I agree.

It has to do with safety and security in this too much, too soon, too fast world. Teenagers are children with little self control forced to make decisions on a daily basis that could affect them for the rest of their lives – which means another 70 years if they are lucky. I don’t need constant contact with my children. I am not over protective. I am using today’s technology to protect my child as best I am able from today’s predators. Cell phones should be allowed in school because children need them when school is NOT in session – there is such a thing as an OFF button. Use it or lose it. It’s really a very simple rule and easy to enforce. When parents have to come to school taking time out of their busy day to pick up a cell phone a few times – kids will get the message.

There will always be a few bad apples – unfortunately they don’t fall far from the tree, but they should not be allowed to infect the rest of the crop. What happens if your kid needs to stay after school for sports practice, you commute 2 hours to work and can’t pick her up – her ride falls through and she has no way home, and there isn’t a pay phone in sight – do you really want her waiting, walking or taking a ride from someone you don’t know? Make sure you have a kid before you answer that question – it’s the only way you can answer it honestly. I can give you at least 100 more scenarios just as scary for boys or girls. It has to do with safety and common sense – not over protective parents – its hype to get people to believe a certain way.

And don’t blame technology for people who should not be parents. I have a 16 year old boy raised watching all the violent cartoons, anime and having all of the latest available techno gadgets, games and whatever – he knows the difference between right and wrong, he knows the difference between reality and fiction – You can bet 99.9% of the rest of the kids copping a plea do too. I don’t care who you are by the age of 12 you know it’s wrong to hurt someone and you know you can kill someone with a gun in the real world no matter what happens on TV or in video games. Any other excuse given is an excuse to get a kid off. Do not mistake a legal defense with the truth.

It’s unfortunate that so many people today do not use common sense when making judgments and spouting off. Instead of judging try teaching responsibility and start expecting others to take personal responsibility for their actions, be accountable for yours. You should probably look inward before you start pointing fingers – what you do affects everyone else – kids are watching you from the time they are born whether you are related to them or not and they have LONG memories. You can’t expect children to ignore what they see and hear unless they have constant positive reinforcement AND someone always telling them how they should be acting.

BTW, I am a mother, I have advanced degrees in psychology, anthropology and history and I am consultant in current and new technology and development since 1993. But more than that – I had great parents and grandparents.

Jon (user link) says:


One thing that I think the web sites should provide to help the parents out is more accountability. It is too easy to create a fake email account and from there a fake identity. With many kids now having cell phones, that can be a great way to provide some accountability. You don’t need to show anyone the cell phone number on the site but using it as a way to confirm someone’s identity (sending a code via text message) provides some accountability to the user…you can’t get a cell phone in the U.S. without ID. We recently added security on http://www.where.com that prohibits someone from posting a message on a user’s wall until they have confirmed their phone. Since then, we’ve had little to no issue with obscene messages because they can’t spoof the phone number.

Jimmy Bear Pearson (user link) says:

Respect, Love, Consistency...

Yes, cyberspace does provide almost unfettered access to and from people and businesses with less-than-good intentions.

Yes, cyberspace does provide excellent access to unimaginable amounts of information (both good information and bad information).

However, the biggest thing anyone can do for their kids is to teach them (and act as a role model for) Respect, Love, Consistency, the ability to take Personal Responsibility when it is appropriate, the attitude of having a good Work Ethic, Common Sense, reasonable Self-Preservation, and well-moderated Confidence in the self.

Parenting has always been a full-time job. Parenting has always been difficult. Parenting takes a great deal of work and takes a lifetime to learn.

But… parenting is the single most rewarding and important job any of us can do (IMVHO). Good, consistent, and caring parenting will not prevent bad things from happening to kids, but will at least give the kids a fighting chance to survive on their own.

Alecks says:

I’m 15 years old living in Wisconsin – I personally don’t have a cellular phone and at school we must keep them in our lockers at all times during school hours. Most kids don’t follow this rule anyway; they only keep drugs in their lockers. And I love video games – that is what I do for fun, aside from creating graphics on the computer and making web pages. I suppose you could say I’m more mature than the average 15 year old?

jason says:


Im 17 and live in Missouri. My school has banned phones, In my opinion this is so stupid. I get As and Bs and still use my phone plenty. If you are to idotic to pay attention in class when you need to and not use your phone when you are learning something you shouldnt be there in the first place. It irritates me that I have to sneak simply to text a friend a question about what hes doing after school or something when im all done with my class work. If you cant figure out to do your own damn work first then use your cell later or you get bad grades just stay home for the sake of people who actually care about an education.

Parched says:

I think that we should not discount the fact that New Yorkers do, indeed, have cause for feeling the need to take full advantage of any extra layer of protectiion that technology can provide for them.

Also, let’s not forget that kids have opened fire on their schools during this generation. My kids have been through numerous bomb threats and have spent half-days standing outside the building while a bomb squad investigates a threat.

In a student-on-student attack, a cell phone in the hands of a teenager could save precious minutes in alerting rescue units of the danger they are in.

I don’t believe that there is an easy answer to handling new technologies and balancing usage; effective policies are built over time with a combination of common sense and experience.

Ladle says:

I graduated from high school not all that long ago in NYC, with no cell phone. Considering that my school was a bit remote, it would have been safer for me to have one on my person.. kept off. Teachers’ concerns are legitmate: it is easy to cheat with them, easy to distract, and kids do fight over them.

However, it’s easy to control: keep them off. If it rings during class, the teacher gets to answer it, just like the teacher would answer a knock on the door. A parent needing to communicate with their child would normally go thorugh the front desk anyway, and if it’s another kid calling, that’ll soon shut them up. If they’re spotted using it otherwise, they get it back at the end of the day. Twice, and their parent comes and gets it back.

Seriously. If a Game Boy had a GPS in it, it could be construed as a safety device, but that dosen’t mean you get to play it during math class.

whatever44 says:

we need them

i thinkthat schools should allow kids to have phones at school. when i was injr.beta club one time i had my phone. ( i was not supposed to) and my mom thoought she needed to get me at 5:30 but she should be getting me at 4:30. she worked in alpharetta which is 2 hours away. when i went to the bathroom i made sure nobody was there and i called my mom it was 3:45 and she was just leaving she called my dad and he cameand got me on time. If i hadnt had my phone i would have been at school bymyself forlike and hour and a half kidscould save a life at school with them or if a nurse wont let a kid go home and the kid should(my kid had abdomminal pains and she wouldnt let him go home) the child could call mom and if mom feels like her child is sick she can come get that sick kid. My son ended p having surgery that day and got his appendix taken out.

WhAtEvA_12 says:


Hey all, all of you have raised some realli good points about this issue and it has helped me alot. I am a yar 12 students from australia and i am doing my social studies major on how technology and the modern world are afecting the new generation and this has realli helped me. if anyone knows of any other useful sites that woudl help me with my assignment can you please Email me at WhAtEvA_12@hotmail.com

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