I came across this article today: Law Would Let Parents See Kids’ Text Messages, and, well, frankly, I’m outraged. So, you mean to tell me that under federal law (read the article), my minor child – for whom I am completely legally responsible, whose cell phone I provided and pay the bill on every month – actually has the right to refuse to allow me access to text messages on his phone?
I’m guessing that the law, as drafted (which I have not actually seen), isn’t actually aimed at kids and their right to privacy, and it’s probably also not specifically aimed at preventing parents from having access to their kids’ business. I’m guessing it’s a law meant to protect privacy rights of cell phone owners in general; unfortunately, kids – some as young as 6 and 7 years old! – fall under that umbrella.
Here’s what I think: any kid who refuses to show his or her parents his or her text messages has something to hide. Also, they’ve probably been fed some misguided notion (by their parents!) that they actually have a right to privacy. As I see it, everything my kids do is my business; privacy (I’m not talking about bathroom privacy) is a privilege as long as they’re minors – not a right.
No, this does not mean that I go through my kids’ things – specifically my teenager’s – or that I read all his texts and emails (anymore). I do, however, reserve the right to, and he knows it. So far, there hasn’t been any push back from him on this issue – it’s just the way it is, and we seem to get along fine.
I realize this is an unpopular opinion in this day and age. But I’m full of unpopular opinions, so what’s one more?
This feeds right into a bigger issue: the overall climate of parenting these days. Is it just me, or does it seem like we’ve all gone a little nuts trying to turn out happy, confident, brilliant kids? It seems like everyone is so worried about doing the least bit of damage to little Billy’s and Susie’s psyches that the reins have been let out too much. Are we really under the impression that kids are just miniature adults who deserve all the perks adults can have, and that discipline and consequences will break their spirits?
A therapist acquaintance (okay, my therapist) recently informed me that it is now frowned upon by the experts to put a child in an isolated time-out – that is, to make a child who is acting out go be by him- or herself, as in sending him or her to his or her room – because it creates shame and abandonment issues. Are you fucking kidding me? It’s bad enough that spanking has been taken off the table by “the experts” – now time-outs, too? Apparently, if a kid is freaking out and acting like a complete hysterical brat, or mouthing off and being rude and disrespectful, what is called for is hugging. I’m serious, that’s what she said.
I’m no expert, but I’m calling bullshit on this one.
I’m not saying I’m a fan of abusive parenting. Look, I suffered my share of abuse as a kid. My dad whipped me and my brothers with a leather belt – on our bare skin – leaving welts up and down our backs and legs – and this was his regular method of discipline. My mother called me names, told me repeatedly that she didn’t like me, mimicked me crying, oh, and slapped me around plenty and once broke a hairbrush on me. Not cool. Not acceptable. Common back then? Perhaps more than people realize. But it seems to me that the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other, and now it’s all about being permissive and indulgent and doing for our kids instead of teaching them to do for themselves, and putting their (supposed) happiness above everyone else’s. And what are we really accomplishing? Are we really raising a generation of capable, empathetic, respectful, well-adjusted people? A lot of signs point to NO.
There’s got to be a middle ground. Kids need to have rules and boundaries and meaningful consequences. They need to be allowed to fail. They need to understand that they are kids, not little adults, and that not everything is a right when you’re a kid.
And we parents need to accept that nobody gets out of childhood unscathed. Every parenting method turns out its share of kids with issues – that’s just the way it is. Let’s just be rational, okay? And realize that these kids we’re raising are going to be turned loose on society eventually.