As I have complained before, kids today with their Nintendos, and their Interwebz, and their Googles, have no idea how good they have it. I was reminded of this the other day when a commercial for the new iPhone came on. Now, you all know what a techie I am, and how Steve Jobs is kinda like a deity to me, so you will probably be surprised to learn that I do not have an iPhone. (That last sentence was written in the Microsoft “Sarcasm” font, just in case you missed it)
Now these iPhone thingies look pretty cool. Apparently you can surf the intertubes, take movies, play video games, and use them to hold impromptu video conferences like Dick Tracy. However, my fear of technology, and frugality will probably make me the last person on planet earth to succumb to the siren’s call of the iPhone. (OK, it’s mostly my frugality). So I was kind of stunned when Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect informed me that some of the kids in her 5th grade class at Our Lady of the Subdural Hematoma already have their own iPhones.
I may have mentioned this before, but as far as private Catholic schools go, OLSDH is one of the poorer ones in town. We don’t get the children of big moneyed yuppies like St. Thomas Academy, or the spawn of the suburban Nouveau Rich. Most of the graduating kids will go on to heathen public high schools due to their parents lack of $$$. So I was a bit astounded by the fact that iPhones were becoming common place among tweenagers.
This has raised a whole new level of alarm on my Parenting Fear-O-Meter. Growing up, our communications in school were limited to folded slips of paper, with hastily scrawled messages like “tell Jimmy, to tell Chris, that Kim says, that Marianne told her that Eileen likes him”. Unless you were to eat the notes after reading them, you learned pretty quickly that anything you wrote could be held against you in the court of Sister Josepha. So we were always pretty careful about what we wrote, and whom we wrote about.
Even when I entered 8th grade and began talking to girls on the telephone privacy was a luxury I never had. At 20 Prospect we were blessed to have 2 phones, one on the wall in the kitchen with a 20 ft. long extension cord, and an old black Ma Bell phone in the upstairs hallway. Even if you were sitting in the hall closet, with the door shut, whispering, you could never be 100% certain that Mom wasn’t on the downstairs phone listening in.
So that TV commercial about the all amazing uses of the iPhone made me realize something. For the first time I began to think about all of the things that me and my relatively benign set of friends might have done had we the technology to take pictures of our butts and post them on the principal’s Facebook site. And we were the good kids! What would these technologies have produced in the hands of the juvenile delinquents at the Batavia Correctional Facility Junior High? Armageddon most likely.
As Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect teeters on the brink of adolescence, she is about to gain access to hitherto unheard of ways to screw up and get into trouble. I quick ran upstairs, and pulled out the instruction book that she came with to see how I was supposed to manage her access to technology, but unfortunately the 1999 edition did not foresee Dick Tracy type phones in the hands of 10 year olds. (If you have a more recent copy, can I borrow it?). Then I started sweating.
Unless I build a tower, and lock her in it for the next 10 years, I am going to have to figure out how to protect her from getting hurt, or hurting others, by doing the things that I am quite sure I would have done if I could have gotten my hands on a digital video camera at age 11. Frankly, this scares the bejeebers out of me since I hardly understand how these gadgets work in the first place. Knowing what she is texting, emailing, or posting, is not as easy as listening at the foot of the stairs while she sits in the hall closet talking on the phone.
Before you think I am only concerned about my little princess, I admit that I have the same concerns for 20 Prospect Jr. Even though he takes after his Saintly mother, I’m sure he’ll find new and creative ways of getting in trouble. I can imagine what a delinquent I would have become if I had the amazing power of the Googles, and the Facebooks as a teen. I probably would have spent a lot fewer nights playing Dungeons and Dragons.
On the plus side, if the two of them are in jail by 18 then all that money in their 529 accounts can go towards retirement. So there is that silver lining.
So parents. What keeps you awake at night with worry?