Charlotte, 17, is supposed to touch base with her parents every hour when she is out with her friends. Becca’s parents put a GPS-type chip in her phone so they can track her whereabouts all night long. Morgan has been texting her parents 5-10 times a day already at college. What in the heck is going on?
When kids get their first cell phone, there is an unspoken agreement that they will from that moment on be reachable 24/7. If a parent calls or texts them and don’t receive an immediate response, parents freak out and threaten to call the police to start hunting them down. Unfortunately, this is often not an exaggeration.
I like to remind parents that when we were out and about in our teen years there were no cell phones, and so our parents didn’t know our constant movements. They trusted us enough to figure things out, to make good choices, take care of ourselves, and to make it home safely. And for the most part we did.
What teens are up to these days is not too different from what we were doing back in the day. Mostly driving around looking for a party, especially parties where parents were out. If it got broken up by the cops, we got back in our cars to scout out the next party. Then it was off to the Burger King for a snack before we headed home; pretty universal stuff really.
So I am encouraging you to remember your past when it comes time to start letting go of control with your teens, especially teens in their junior and senior years of high school. I think it’s okay for them to have parts of their life being private, and the freedom to be out at night without having to let parents know where they are at every moment. It seems reasonable to me for a teen to tell their parents their immediate plans before they leave home, knowing full well that their plans change constantly, especially with the advantage of cell phones and Facebook etc. They might check in later on to let parents know what’s up or when they will be coming home if they are running a little late.
Letting go is a process, and we need to include technology in this endeavor.