Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Privacy v Parenting

Parenting for me is based on a few principles;

1) What I loved about how my parents did it
2) What made me feel awful that my parents did (this is not a knock on them as much as it is about being self-aware)
3) Learning from your current times and those in your social circle who you admire
4) Flexible and evolving way to parent
5) My most important - know your child

Having said that I grew up in a house, in an area, with the idea that privacy was a limited thing. Basically there was none - if you wanted privacy you learned the art of hiding well (cigarettes come to mind).   There was also no social media and the phone was in a place, attached to a wall, where "personal" conversations should never stray to where they could not be overheard by a parent.  Well you could have them, code was used, or before parents got home.  In a NYC neighborhood you were watched so your privacy was limited there too.  None of this actually prevented us from doing what I would kindly call stupid things or experimenting but it did remind us that much like "1984" someone was watching and that someone would not hesitate to whack you upside your head or worse tell your parents and there would be hell to pay, 

As an adult I am appreciative that all of these adults that interfered in ways that were necessary.   

As a parent much like Apple I have a conundrum.  We live in a world where social media is so much more far reaching, allows access to information both good and terrible and most of all it contributes kids being able to hide behind a virtual wall to do things they most likely would have not done in person.   

Much like Apple I know that for the good of a situation I may have to create that backdoor and check in on my kids not because I want to spy on them but because as a parent I am torn between their privacy and my need to provide good counsel.  To digress but for a moment, because you know when something is hard a digression is a nice way to avoid next steps, the Apple thing is really hard for me. I get what the government is asking for, they could after all search a safe or a home, I also see how they could say why can't just your engineers open this phone up and then delete and get rid of whatever program you used to do it.  I get that there is danger in this virtual world and no one wants another attack.   Yet how are ensuring that it is a one time thing, what happens when say a Chinese government agency asks a global company like Apple to do that to dissidents who they see as terrorists too?  Where is the check and balance?  I am glad I am not Apple - I am sad that we need to have this discussion. 

I digressed enough to get back to my life.  How do we parent without taking away a necessary skill that our children need - the idea of how to make good choices, to live with consequences, to differentiate between who is a good person to have in your inner circle and one who you need to not allow in there.   We want them to be able to come to us after they have made a mistake yet will they if they think we are constantly checking on them?  I know I did not share a lot of things with own parents based on what I assumed their reactions would be.  I know I hid things and sometimes found myself in a tough situation that I was lucky enough to navigate out of but I did not do it through them.  

The right to privacy is important as part of a developmental cycle especially for my almost 12 year old.  He needs to know that he can do those inappropriate things, like curse with his friends, without having me over his shoulder.  He needs to know that he cannot bully or participate in nasty chats or send inappropriate texts to people without a consequence because in life he will need to make those choices when I no longer can check in on him.  Yet a little bit of snooping or the threat of it may just be the tool that drives that choice.  I treasure my privacy, I do not like anyone including anyone I had as a partner to have access to my mail/email/journals/texts/answer my phone, there is no need as I do not touch theirs.  I know my 9 year old could care less about his at this point but the tween well he is navigating different waters and with that comes my need to know when to close my eyes and when to help open his by discussing what I have seen. 

My added hardship is never stop telling my kids that on-line is never really private.  So even if I do set up some parameters, which I tell them about, anything they post, share, snapchat, instagram, etc... should be ok for mass and eternal (well not snapchat) consumption and I am the least of their worries in that space.  That is another aspect of privacy this generation needs help with, and some of mine too from some of the FaceBook posts I see, to understand that social medial is not your personal diary. They also have to be taught about the dangers of posting on-line and predators - that makes me queasy just to write but not enough so that I will not address it. 

Parenting - tough and always challenging but how I love it and I hope that when my kids grow up and maybe look at a list like I have above they will find much more in the first "what I loved most that my mom did" and very little in the "what my mom did awful" bucket.  

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