Who’s in Charge?

  • Posted on August 15, 2009 at 9:34 am

As I read through the Forum article High-tech bullying a challenge, I began to wonder where does the responsibility really lie as far who’s in charge of all the technology in the hands of kids today.

As someone who grew up in the 80s, car phones were about as far as we were in technology.  We didn’t yet have personal computers or multiple PCs in every home and laptops weren’t even in our minds.  If we needed to call someone we went home and called them or went to their homes.  Writing letters consisted of a pen, paper, envelope and stamp.  If you abused your privileges and were grounded from the phone, let me tell you there was no using of the family telephone.  I have to give props to the creativity of my mother, God bless her heart, when my brother was about seventeen.  He had a girlfriend that lived in another town and ran up the phone bill.  We had one of those phones that had the rotar dialer that you had to turn for each number.  My mother promptly went down to the telephone company and got a lock for the telephone.  Apparantly this lock was able to stop the rotar dialer from turning and it required a key to unlock it.  Ironically, when I bought my first brand new PC back in the 90s, it came with a similar lock only it stopped the hard drive.  You could power the computer on but it wouldn’t boot unless it was unlocked with a key.  It wasn’t ancient technology it was security.  How many of us parents would like to have that kind of ‘security’ now?  It’s ok, put your hands up.  It puts a whole new perspective on grounding the kids from the computer while you’re at work doesn’t it? 

Today, kids have technologies at their disposal that we never dreamed of as kids.  The article reports that the schools should be responsible for cyber-bullying.  As you read in a angry parent rant of mine last year my daughter had a problem with this sort of thing and I did what I have been told to do forever; call the school.  The school promptly dismissed the cyber-bullying as not their responsibility as it happened outside of school (although the end result happened in school) using technology that did not belong to the school.  At first I was really mad about it.  THEY should do something.  Why?  How is it the responsibility of the school to monitor over 900 cell phones on any given day?  Thousands of PCs in homes across the city? 

I am going to give credit to the school for this.  THEY stood up for their position and in hindsight THEY are right.  They do everything humanly possible to ensure the technology that they own and are responsible for is used appropriately.  That my friends is the end of their responsibility.  THEY did not buy nor pay the bills for the cell phones in the hands of hundreds of kids.  THEY did not put PCs in the bedrooms of their students.  THEY did not sign students up for or assist them in the maintenance of myspace, facebook, bebo, xanga, hot or not and other social networking sites accounts.  We did.  The parents.  Our names are on the bills.  Our names are on the leases, mortgages and deeds to our homes.  All of these things say that WE are responsible for whatever happens on those cell phones, in our homes or on the PCs on which our names are on the bill.  

Cyber-bullying is an issue there is no debating it.  The only question left is — what to do about it?  In my humble opinion, I don’t feel that a ten year old needs a cellphone.  In fact, I don’t think kids under the age of sixteen really need a cellphone and only if the sixteen year old is working or driving. 

I think it’s time that we land our helicopters.  In case you didn’t know, those of us who are Gen X tend to be what are known as  helicopter parents constantly hovering over our children lest their feelings or person should be hurt.  One huge draw back to being this helicopter parent type is our kids also don’t learn to respect the authority of other adults.  For example, a teacher gets upset with a fifteen year old who has misbehaved in the classroom and disciplines said fifteen year old.  Before that kid is out the classroom door they are on their cell phone crying to Mommy or Daddy that the teacher was unfair.  Mommy or Daddy calls up the principal and gives him or her a tongue lashing to be remembered tainted with implications of legal action if the teacher isn’t punished for having control of his or her classroom. 

It’s not Johnny’s or Janey’s fault they are bullies.  This one really torks my chord.  Of course it’s not, it’s the parents’ fault.  And it really is.  I’m sorry, but we parents need to start taking control of our kids.  Preferably from the moment they take their first breath.  Here’s our favorite excuses:  I work a lot of hours.  It’s the babysitter’s fault.  Johnny or Janey has mental issues and I probably need to get some chemical restraint because I’m such a busy person.  (I’m trying really hard to grapple with this over diagnosis of children’s illnesses) I don’t have time for my kid is what it boils down too.  I just bought a house, boat, lake home, new car, or whatever it might be and now I have to work even more and man I am just too stressed out to deal with my kid.  My favorite excuse for parenting blunders is:  It’s that neighbor kid.  He or she is such a bad kid and look at his or her parent(s).  Hello?  If the kid and his or her parent(s) are so bad why is the kid hanging out with him or her in the first place?

Unfortunately, school tends to be the venue for the playing out of disputes between kids.  This is historical in nature.  Playground bullies, fights, name calling, note passings have all been played out at the schools forever.  Now these things are playing out in a new venue that the school has absolutely no control over no matter how hard they try. 

We parents need to start believing and living the following:  I am a parent.  I gave birth to, or was present at the birth of, or helped conceive, or adopted Johnny or Janey.  It is my responsibility, and no one else’s, to ensure that Johnny or Janey are raised with values that reflect common decency among human beings and nature.  If I feel that I cannot do this because I am too busy, then I need to take some time to reflect upon my priorities in life and make adjustments as necessary.

:::pushes soapbox back under podium:::

3 Comments on Who’s in Charge?

  1. GFBison says:

    I agree! Really, when you get right down to it, you can’t make everyone be nice to everyone else. You can, however, teach those close to you to respect the feelings of others. That is our obligation as parents, teachers, mentors, and simply as humans.

  2. Ms. C says:

    Wow-what a great soap box presentation! 😉

    I am no fan of bullies having been bullied as a kid (and adult) and I believe the greatest gift you can give your children is a sense of moral integrity. This cannot be done by word and rules alone, it must be role-modeled.

    I thing it is a shame how grown up some of these young children are becoming at such a young age (and I remember the phone locks – what a flashback!). Kids today are too often 12 going on 22. I agree parents are indeed to blame in part, but more generally I believe as a society we have lost touch with what matters.

    More of us have to stand up and say enough already. We can affect our child’s behavior and the integrity with which they live their life but the environment in which they spend their days is rife with problems. There are too many kids who will never have the benefit of a moral compass and that is a parental failing, not a kid failing.

    If we as a society are going to expect integrity from our children, we have to likewise evidence it as adults by insisting that across society the rules, norms and laws are upheld. We need to examine the parenting when we see unacceptable behavior in the child instead of merely labeling the child as a bad seed.

    It isn’t the kids. They are born innocent. This is a case of nurture not nature – bullies are not born they are made…children unable to take responsibility for their own actions are not born that way, they are taught that over time…a lack of boundaries doesn’t come from your genes it comes from someone not setting any boundaries. I am tired of parents who don’t pull their weight. You don’t need to be a perfect parent (indeed, who is?), but you have to put in the time and own the responsibility.

    Uuuhhh PW…here’s your soap box back. :-)


  3. PrairieWoman says:

    You are absolutely right that it MUST be role-modeled. You can use my soapbox whenever you like, but be careful it has a weak spot on the right side. :-)

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