It’s Not A Popularity Contest

There are times – and I think it’s more now that my kids are older than when they were younger – when parents have to make a decision and the outcome is an unhappy child.  We know what call they want – but it’s not a popularity contest, so sometimes they’re just not happy.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve run afoul of expectations of both of my girls.  While I can see their point of view on the issues in question – I’m comfortable with my thought process and decisions.

When the girls were way younger a temper tantrum would ensue, and that would be over quickly once they realized the low impact it had on me.  In the tween years, there would be a more sustained protest, perhaps even an attempt to argue.

But in the mid-to-late teen years – there’s a whole different approach, I’m not sure if its intentional or not – but now I deal with passive aggressive, displaced anger and the occasional dirty look.

But the lesson I learned probably the day 17.0 came home from the hospital in Boston – its called parenting.  It’s not a popularity content.

It would be great for my kids to applaud every decision and I’d love to be hailed as a hero every time I say, “No” to something.  At least in my house, that’s just not the way it works.

So, I’ll deal with a few dirty stairs and try not to laugh when one takes out their anger on the other knowing it’s aimed at me.  I’m a parent, not a politician – and it’s not a popularity contest.

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The Tween Who Would be a Teen and the Soon to be Tween

Although the difference in age between my girls has not changed (and yes I know it’s not supposed to) at this moment in time it seems like the difference is a lifetime.  11.0 is a full-fledged tween, trying hard to be a teen and 9.0 is somewhere on the outskirts of becoming a tween, but not completely sure she wants to be all that all the time…

And so we’ll go into the new year as the tween who wants to be a teen and the soon to be tween-albeit perhaps reluctantly.

While this may have been clear to people on the outside looking in, it was Chanukkah this year that made it clear to me.  As I mentioned last week, the first night’s gift was a cell phone.  With the cell phone came responsiblity.  And with the responsibility, came a contract to sign.

I’ve fielded comments pro and con my idea of a contract, and as I usually do, I did just what I thought was right-although I do agree there were some good comments made by those who think my idea was a little over the top.

But when it came to the girls.  I went over each clause with them individually.  9.0 happy to have a phone initialed each of the clauses and signed her name.

11.0 did her best to negotiate with me.  She doesn’t have the experience yet to know she should not negotiate from a spot where she has no strength.  The biggest argument she had was her friends did not have to sign a contract for their phones.

When that came up, I tried out my mother’s favorite argument from when I was growing up and made the comparison a friend’s home life, “Go move in with them,” she would say.

I probably did not say it with enough conviction, because it did not resonate with 11.0 or with me for that matter, so I quickly moved on.  I tried to point out that 11.0 really was not in a spot to negotiate terms, since I could easily take the phone and put it in a drawer.

Knowing I would do that, worked and 11.0 reluctantly signed.

But the difference in attitude is duly noted.  11.0 just short of rebellious, and 9.0 happy to have a phone.

I guess I’ll be living with a teen girl soon-and with two teen girls before I’m ready, unless of course I can figure out a way to mess with their birthdays…but that’s not likely is it?

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(My) Tween(s) and Social Networking

Which of these sites is your tween on?As the parent of one tween (10.5 who will be 11 in two months) and an 8.5 who wants to do what her big sister does-social networks like Facebook, Twitter, You Tube etc are sources of big concern for me-and I know a lot about them.  Which seems to put me well ahead of my peers who are parents confronting these issues.

To fully understand the issue I (and other parents of tweens today) face-you need to understand the landscape.  Chances are if  you are reading this blog, you do-but for the sake of clarity:

At school, softball, camp-pretty much any place more than three kids gather, eventually the conversation turns to Facebook, texting, You Tube and any one of a myriad of social games.  Now, like many parents I am guilty of enabling this conversation by outfitting my kids with the iPod Touch-which opens up the magic of the app store to them.  I am aware of at least three apps that my girls and their friends use regularly that are not compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  And these are the ones I worry most about.

Through the age of 13 (which is why its the magic number for Facebook, You Tube, Twitter etc) COPA provides some rigorous rules about how kids under 13 are treated on websites.  Speaking as someone who has had to consider COPPA compliance-it’s not treated lightly in large companies.  I can see in some start-up environments though there being more of a “let’s wait to see if someone complains” attitude.

Basically, COPPA provides strong content guidelines and enforcement as well as protections against the collection of PID (personal identification). Enforcement of COPPA  falls on the Federal Trade Commission.

So back to my parenting conundrum.  Both of my kids (more so 10.5) have friends who are on Facebook, regularly post videos to You Tube and are on social gaming sites like Second Life etc.  My kids, not so much.  They have email, I let them on Opionaided (it is COPPA compliant) and they can play social games targeted at tweens that are COPPA compliant.

But the battle continues. Then comes the part that confuses me, although I know it should not.  Since becoming a single parent, I am more apt (perhaps more open) to talking with other parents at school events, temple, parties etc-and they seem unaware of the kind of information their children are sharing on social networks.

They are shocked at what I know about their kids and their family trips-just through a casual glance at Facebook.

Now this is a lesson I am trying to teach my kids as well-as I will not count on the FTC or COPPA compliance to keep my kids net safe.  That said, its not easy to say, “no” to the relentless stream of asks to join Facebook, You Tube and other sites.

When the girls want to try a new site out, I tell them I have to look at it first–and the first thing I look for is COPPA compliance-sites that are COPPA compliant brag about it, so its not hard to find.

The other items I look for:

  • Is there a secure log in procedure on the sign up page? (look for the HTTPS or the lock)
  • Look through the TOS on the site and check on their policy for PID-do they trade it or sell it to third parties?
  • Once registered, make sure the sign in page is also a secure log in.
  • I keep the girls’ computer in the middle of the family room.  That is their online portal, where I can dip in as needed.
The other thing I do (and perhaps its a bit over the top) is I have my iPhone set to get the girls’ email so I know what they are signing up for, and can shut them down pretty quickly.

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The Proud Tween, and the One Who Would Be One

Its all about the BFF and the next textOne of the ongoing dialogs between 10.5 and 8.0 is the older one proudly tagging herself as a “tween.”  Now this is an accepted stage of child development-generally from 10-12, too old to be a child and obviously not quite a teen yet.  10.5 carries this as a badge of honor, and at times as a stick to slap her sister with.

The latest discussion/skirmish was over an app they each have on their iPod Touch called Opinionaided.  It’s basically a social networking app which is heavily moderated.  The concept is they can upload images and status and ask the broader community for thoughts.  Of all of the social network apps out there, this is one that is mostly safe (none can be completely safe) so I don’t get too worked up when they are on it.  (The Facebook discussion is fodder for a separate post).

Last night, 10.5 was engaged with a user on Opinionaided while 80 was at a softball game.  When we got home from the rain-shortend game 8.0 tried to engage with her sister and the user-which is when the “tween” talk broke out.  According to 10.5 she should be able to do her own thing because after all, she’s a tween, and 8.0 isn’t.

Apparently the term tween is one that 10.5 has looked up on dictionary.com because she quoted it almost verbatim.  (As an aside, I tell her to look up other things on the site-I’ve even added the app to their iPods and that never happens).  This only moved 8.0 to become upset, after all, she’s not 10 yet, so can’t argue on that point.

So out came the , “Well dad lets me do it, right dad?” argument.  One that I know better than to get sucked into-so I declared shower time.

To use one of my favorite corporate lawyer terms, it’s a slippery slope of being a parent navigating the waters of social media, connected kids, different intellectual stages and perhaps most challenging the war of the, “well she is doing it” argument.

I try very hard to keep the kids separate on these types of issues.  After all I do have one tween, and one who would like to be one.  It’s just that sometimes I can’t decide which is which-and it’s not a question I want to ask them.

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