Challenge Nine : Is too much monitoring by parents needed?
So what do I mean by monitoring here? I mean the right of the parents of teenagers (or in some cases even younger kids) to know the passwords, user-names, message conversations et all. Just how much knowledge is the limit when it comes to knowing enough of the personal lives of their wards.
Here are situations to think about (both the situations are the nicer way of asking, the ways can be much more aggressive too):
A teenager logged on face-book. The conversation between her mom and her goes something like this.
Mom : Face-book again? Do you not have to study?
Teenager: Mom, not again! The homework is complete and I am right now chatting with friends.
Mom : Why do you not make me an account too? Wouldn’t that be nice?
Teenager : (is this a trick? Is she going to ask me to add her so that she can see all I post?) Aah… but why do you need an account? You hardly ever come online!
Mom : True. Why don’t you share your password with me, that way I can contact some people through your account and plus I will not need to ask you what you are doing, I can see for myself.
Teenager : No way mom!
Father : Son, show me your phone, I need to see a number I asked you to save for me.
Son : I’ll give you the number after I’ve sent this message.
Father : Just give me the phone itself, and you continue with your video games.
Son : (What the heck!) Ok, here.
Father : It’s password protected, give me the password.
Son : Wait, I’ll enter it. (I am not giving him my password, nothing doing!)
One valid question that may strike the parents is, “What are they hiding from us”? An answer that would invalidate it, though, is “I am not hiding anything but I have a right to not tell you every thing I and my friends talk of or share”.
A valid question that the children may ask is, “Do they not trust me? I am doing nothing wrong”. An answer invalidating this would be “I am just wanting to know if he or she is safe online. This is an age where things can start to go wrong.”
In such cases, I see no harm with the child sharing the passwords but only as long as the parents are ensuring the safety. If the parents get snoopy, the child has every right to stop them and tell them to go no further. However, this is only about children who are doing no wrong and parents who are just concerned.
What happens when the children are indeed doing something wrong? How far does the right of the parents go in this case. Well, logically they have all right to know everything so that they can stop the wrong. On the other hand are extra snoopy parents who want to know anything and everything even when their child is, metaphorically speaking, flawless. In such a case the parents have no right whatsoever to snoop and ask for passwords.
The main problem faced here is to decide to which category do you and your child belong? The parents will always thing they are only doing it in best interest of the child, even if they actually are snoopy. And the kids will always feel that they should never have to share passwords with their parents, even if their journey on the wrong path has begun. So, at the cost of sounding diplomatic, the only answer to this question is for the parents to explain to their kids what all not to do or get involved in and then just trust them to it. After all, it is indeed impossible to keep a check on everything they do in today’s day and age.
Coming to the next part of the challenge, the mentoring along the monitoring. Mentoring is no crime, but when mixed with monitoring, it becomes tricky. The decision of the extent to which these have to go hand in hand and when the monitoring has to be removed is often confusing and may lead to many World Wars at home. To this, I have a ‘simple’ answer : Mentor well enough so that there is no need of monitoring.