How Often to Call?

Do daily phone calls to college kid interfere with independence?

Mom and Daughter talk on phone. THis is a tattoo.
source: staygram and moxietattoo

Dear Ms. Smartphone: My daughter started college this month and her school is about 3 hours from home. I am in the habit of calling her everyday and texting too. We chat about everything. Most of my friends think this is OK but one of them says that I should call less- because I am not letting her grow up. What do you think? Vivian, Sausalito

Dear Vivian: When I went to college my parents and I agreed to speak with each other on Sundays, and I had to wait for their call at the dorm’s payphone. New technology brings us new expectations and new etiquette! I have boys and sometimes there is less chit-chat. I miss that.

That said, many girls now report that their mothers are their best friends. Perhaps your daughter feels less need to reach out to new people in college as she bonds with the people back home. Importantly, if you are giving advice to your daughter and helping her make important decisions, she may not be developing the self-sufficiency she needs to navigate the world on her own.

Today’s teens seem less prepared and more fragile. In 2011, the American College Health Association reported 31% of female freshman reported anxiety or panic attacks. In 2016, the rate was 62%.

I am not saying that phone calls and staying-in-daily contact will be harmful. I do recommend that you not get in the way of her judgment and decision making…even when you find that to be sub-optimal. She needs to become independent and resilient. Note that at the other end of the age spectrum it changes: many older people ‘live for‘ the daily phone call and encouraging words from their adult children. This is a short answer to a long tailed issue.

Posting Kids Pics?

Are parents naive when they post kids pictures on social media like Instagram and Facebook?

source: deviantart

Dear Ms. Smartphone: Should I speak up? My nephew has two girls, ages 5 and 9. They are active and photogenic, and he set up an Instagram site for their pictures. In one of the posts the girls are lying on their backs, without tops. It looks suggestive. I’m not a prude, but it strikes me wrong. Dave, Brentwood

Dear Dave: If this photo was a one-off and not typical of his posts, maybe you should let it go. But otherwise, say something….it’s more about the ‘how’. First ask whether your nephew has thought of restricting access to the site to family members and personal friends. That said, one of them might still re-post.

The Child Rescue Coalition claims that 90 percent of children have been featured on social media by age 2. Most parents believe pictures of their children in the bath or naked are simply innocent snapshots of childhood and don’t realize that their postings can go far and wide.

An Australian source estimated that one half of 45 million child-porn images it found online were sourced from social media. They explain that while the photos copied from social media would not be considered exploitation material on their own, they were often accompanied by comments that ‘exploit’ the child.

A couple of years ago NPR did a piece you might want to replay for your nephew. Children have privacy rights, and may not want their parents to be sharing their pictures and stories. Think of it this way: a parent needs to set a good example for kids: weighing the social benefits of building community, and posting good photography and happy moments versus the lewder issues and privacy.

What to post- when not to post: It’s a thoughtful lesson for parents to discuss with their kids, item by item. And, it might explain why the number of Insta sites for dogs just grows and grows.

School Ban Phones?

A mom asks whether schools should ban smartphones during the school day….

Dear Ms. Smartphone: My pre-teen asked me to write you. In her new school, she is required to leave her phone in her backpack, and not bring it into the classroom. The backpack has to be left in the hallway or in a locker. My daughter says this is not fair. What do you think? M.Casee, Bolinas

Dear M. Casee: Here we are in late August, and your daughter raises the vital back-to-school issue. There is no standard or right- and-wrong here. It’s at the discretion of the school.

Some countries, like France, Australia, and Israel institute bans during school, but other countries, like Japan, have rescinded the suspension. In the U.S., some school district use Yondr bags. There are compelling reasons to ban smartphones in the classroom: studies find that students who use them do not score as well on standardized tests; they are distracting during classroom lessons; and students can use them after class to post off-color pictures, sometimes bullying ones, from the gym, lunchroom, etc.

That said, there are also positive reasons to allow smartphones in the schools. The primary one is that smartphones are the new tool, and students need to be educated on how to use operate them intelligently and mindfully. In previous posts, I have called for provisional phones… schools, libraries, and parents must provide “beginner’s lessons.” It will take a few more years. Currently, only a few teachers have developed a curriculum that use the phone as an educational tool- for example, civics classes that explore the nature of pro and con sentiments.

None of this will resolve your daughter’s cry that it’s not fair, but you need to remind her that principals and teachers set the rules… that’s the first lesson. As a parent, you should ask why she would need to have a phone out during school lessons. It is certainly not to reach you or her friends. And, to set a good example, maybe the teachers and school staff should be phone-free too.