Has Google Replaced Parenting? Ask Google Dad

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Yesterday, my 10-year-old  son wanted to know what triumph meant. I immediately pulled out my pocket dictionary and tossed it to him. He looked and said: “Really mom?” He then marched over to the computer and put the word into Google.

I felt so old school!!!

It’s ben so hard to face up to the fact that my kids will do everything in their lives differently than I did. They will work differently, learn differently, play differently.

Today, my guest blogger is an old friend, Miami super attorney Spencer Silverglate. He shares his wise take and personal experience raising his teen son in the digital age.

Can dad keep up with teenage son?

Blood red.  Marbled to perfection.  Two 12-ounce slabs of New York’s finest, grass-fed, prime-grade, cut-it-with-a-fork, melt-in-your-mouth, beef fillets. Steak.  It’s what’s for dinner—at least it was last Wednesday. Except it wasn’t just another meal.

As I explained that morning to my 16-year-old son Cameron, it would be the night I pass on the manly pursuit of grilling dead animal flesh.  Just like my father passed it on to me and his, undoubtedly, to him.  Yes, that night I would hand over the apron and tongs to my son and reveal the family recipe for grilling steak.  He may have started the day a boy, but by nightfall, he would be a man. Barbecue Man!

Imagine my shock when I rolled into the driveway at 6:45 that evening, accosted by the unmistakable aroma of sizzling meat.  Impossible, I thought to myself. I hadn’t even begun the lesson.  I stared in disbelief as I entered the house and saw my son on the back patio, hovering over the open flames that caressed the tender underbelly of the New York Strips.

“What do you think you’re doing?!” I barked.  “You were supposed to wait for me.  And be careful, you’ll burn the steaks.  You need to cut ‘em open and check to see if they’re done.”

“No, Dad,” he objected.  “If you do that, the juice will leak out.”

“What are you talking about?” I snapped.  “I’ve always done it that way.”

“Chef Ramsey says cutting the steak will dry it out like beef jerky,” he responded.  “You’re supposed to press the meat and feel for the same firmness as the fleshy part of your nose.”

“The fleshy part of . . . who the heck is Chef Ramsey?!” I snarled.

“Really, Dad?  Gordon Ramsey—quite possibly themost famous chef on TV.  I just watched him on YouTube.  According to Gordon, this is an 8 ½ minute steak.”

I stood there slack-jawed for a moment and then walked away with the remnants of my male ego.  Probably just as well.  My son was putting the final grate marks on the best cooked steaks the old grill ever produced.

            The Steak Incident, and others like it, has caused me to question whether our role of parents has been usurped by computers.  There’s very little we can teach our kids that they can’t find on the Internet.  Only the computer generated lesson is “better.”  If you’re a kid, why ask a parent for help with homework when you can have a Stanford professor explain it online?  Why ask dad how to swing a baseball bat when Albert Pujols can teach you on YouTube?   Why ask mom for decorating advice when you can watch Martha Stewart on your smart phone?

What’s the capital of Iceland?  Wikipedia it. How do you spell “chrysanthemum?” Spell check it (I just did). How do you build a tree-house?  Google it.  How do you get to the mall?  GPS it. Who sings this song?  There’s an app for that. Where do babies come from?  You get the point.

We were at dinner the other night and a disagreement broke out over the ways in which one may become a U.S. citizen.  My son, who recently studied the issue, explained the process to my wife and me.  Poor lad, he left out the one about marrying a U.S. citizen. I figured I’d impress him with my mental superiority, so I laid it on him.  He respectfully disagreed, explaining that marrying a citizen would yield a green card, not necessarily citizenship.  As my blood pressure began to rise, I figured I’d play the dad card.  You know the one: “I’m right because I’m dad.”  Before I could utter the words, my son already pulled up the facts on his iPhone.

The computer was right, of course.  The darn thing is always right.

When I was a kid, what my father said was final.  These days what Google says is final.

But have we moved forward or backward? We seem to be floating around in our own, ear-bud wearing bubbles streaming only preferred content.  Why listen to top 40 hits when I can live in the land of perpetual Bruce Springsteen?  For that matter, why bother interacting at all?  I may be sitting next to you at lunch, but I’m texting someone 300 miles away.  Today our personal relationships are not centered around work or school or church, but Facebook.  So what if we never leave the couch—we can still have thousands of “friends.”

I take comfort in knowing that not everythingcan be replaced by machines.  Some things still need to be experienced, especially by our children.  They may be able to go online and learn about riding a bike, but they need a parents’ firm grip on the seat to steady the ride.  And maybe that’s the best metaphor for what parents provide their kids—a firm grip on the ride of life.

I realize of course that we won’t be getting rid of machines anytime soon, nor would I want to. Although technology has the potential to supplant relationships, it can also enhance them.  Anyone who has connected online to a forgotten high school friend can attest to that.

Like anything in life, there must be a balance.  A harmony between man and machine that enriches rather than detracts from the human experience. Which brings me back to my son…

Just the other day I was getting ready for a formal party and decided on a whim to sport a white pocket square to offset my black tuxedo.  Not being a hanky-in-the-top-pocket kind of guy, I had no idea how to fold the silken Rubik’s Cube.  Cameron happened to notice my struggle and casually suggested I go online.   Even though it wasn’t my first instinct, I had to admit it was a good idea.  A few minutes later I had a perfectly folded pocket square.

So there you have it.  My family, just like my ebony suit and ivory handkerchief, now lives together in perfect harmony—with a little help from Google.

 

( Google dad, Spencer, and son, Cameron)

Young Teens posting “Am I Ugly?” Videos

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Can it be true? Can our young teens have such low self esteem that they are posting videos asking YouTube users to comment on their appearance?

Yes. It’s true and it’s horrifying. There’s a growing trend of teen and tween girls taking to the Internet to broadcast concerns about their looks — and asking strangers to weigh in on these insecurities. These girls look right at the camera and ask, “Am I Ugly?” Click here to see the video.

The Huffington Post points out:  A simple search turns up pages upon pages of similar clips, entitled things like “Am I Ugly?” “Am I Ugly Or Pretty?” “Am I Ugly, Be Honest” and “Am I Pretty Or Not?” One video, posted in December of 2010 has gotten over 3.4 million views and 92,000 comments.

As you would expect, some of the comments are brutal.

As a parent, I see how  fragile kids are at this stage. It’s during the teen years that our kids often care more about what their peers think than their parents. I’ve noticed tons of teen girls post photos of themselves all dolled up and in a sexy pose on their Facebook pages…setting up the stage for others to write…”beautiful” or “gorgeous” under the post. What’s with that?

Some bloggers have taken up the cause, asking YouTube to shut down the “Am I Ugly?” videos. But I think as long as social media exists, teens will use it for validation and open themselves to harsh critics.

What do you think the role of parents is in situations like this?

 

 

Watchdog over Kids’ Cellphones?

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My husband recently sent me this article on  software that will monitor your teen’s where about, calls, texts, etc. I found it fascinating and wanted to share it with all of you. I’m not sure what your teen would think of this, but I can tell you my daughter would think I am invading her privacy. However, like the parents in the article state, it’s our jobs as parents to protect our children. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Software keeps dogged watch over kids’ cellphone activity

By Nicole Brochu, Sun-Sentinel, Staff writer 4:25 p.m. EST, January 14, 2012

When Matthew and Angela Sima bought their middle-schooler her first cellphone, it came with a wake-up call. A stranger started sending their little girl unsolicited text messages.

So, the Jupiter couple took a proactive step: they turned to parent monitoring software to track their daughter’s cellphone activity. Just like computer monitoring software, which became all the rage once the personal computer proliferated in American homes, cellphone monitoring software for parents is growing in popularity in a world where the average teenager has a cellphone within reach 24/7.

Using My Mobile Watchdog in the three years since, the Simas can not only monitor the texts, emails and photos sent or received, the applications downloaded and Internet searches performed on their daughter’s phone, but they can block applications and control the times she uses the phone. Even better, the Simas said, they get instantaneous alerts whenever contact is made by or to a phone number not on a pre-approved list.

“There’s no such thing as privacy in our family,” Angela Sima told her daughter when she objected to the extra set of eyes. “Our job is to protect her.”

A 2010 Pew Research Center study found that 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have cellphones — up from 45 percent in 2004. More of these devices are smart phones, the high-tech variety with Internet access, media players and the amplified cyber-dangers that come with them. “Kids didn’t used to have smart phones. Now, they want a smart phone more than a laptop [computer] or a bike,” said Robert Lotter, CEO of eAgency Mobile Security, the makers of My Mobile Watchdog. “The smart phone market has increased the threat [to children] dramatically, so there is definitely an uptrend” in parents’ buying monitoring control products.

In a July 2011 study, the Family Online Safety Institute found that 25 percent of the parents surveyed used parental controls to monitor their kids’ cellphone use; 44 percent restricted kids’ ability to download games and applications; and 70 percent checked their kids’ cellphone for sent and received text messages. “Our kids are vulnerable. That’s why we protect them,” said Greg Schiller, a Special Victims Unit prosecutor for the Palm Beach County Sexual Predator Enforcement Program. “This kind of software allows parents to be there and make sure no one is taking advantage of their child.”

The idea, too, is to protect kids from themselves. “You hear so many stories about kids going off with the wrong crowd, or sending inappropriate pictures back and forth,” said Mae Belgrave, 33, a Boca Raton software developer and mother of three. “You think you know your kids, but they’re like totally different people when they’re around their friends. So, you just worry about them, and the cellphone gives them so much freedom these days.” Her 12-year-old’s phone has Mobile Spy, which allows Belgrave to keep up with her texts, phone calls and — thanks to a GPS tracker — movements.

“That’s a wonderful feature, to be able to check to see she went where she said she was going to,” said Belgrave, who is even more confident in her daughter’s trustworthiness after a year of seeing nothing amiss via Mobile Spy. “She’s responsible. We just wanted to take that extra precaution.”

Detective Rich Wistocki handles Internet crimes against children for a suburban Chicago police department and, as a private consultant, travels the country speaking to parents about how to avoid cyber-dangers. Topping his list of recommendations is My Mobile Watchdog, which is used not just by parents but by law enforcement agencies that have found it vital in tracking down predators and drug dealers. Wistocki credits the product with helping his department capture about 15 sexual predators and 50 drug dealers in the past three years.

“My Mobile Watchdog allows parents to be in their child’s life,” he said. “Other companies say they do what [My Mobile Watchdog] does, but I haven’t seen it.”

But there are plenty of competitors, mostly spyware companies such as Mobile Spy. Whether one is better than the other is up for the consumer’s interpretation, but there’s no question they offer different products. One of the biggest differences is in the spying. Spyware can be installed on anyone’s phone — a child’s, a spouse’s, an employee’s — without their knowing. My Mobile Watchdog is only for parental monitoring of kids’ phones, and a periodic notification is sent to the kids’ devices telling them they’re being monitored. Lotter said the difference is intentional, because he has a moral objection to spying on anyone, even children.

While some people may think such extensive monitoring sounds intrusive, experts say it’s a responsible, and legally viable, means of keeping close watch over kids, whether parents tell them or not. “One hundred percent,” said David Seltzer, a former cyber-crimes prosecutor and now a cyber-crimes defense lawyer in Miami. “I recommend it to all my clients.”

Stealth monitoring of such activity may be a technical violation of Florida’s wiretapping statute, Seltzer said, but it’s not prosecuted in such instances. “Unless the child is an emancipated adult, you can monitor their activity” on the cellphone without their knowing, he said. Whether parents should tell the kids they’re being monitored, he added, “depends on the child.” Belgrave, though, said she and her husband opted to tell their daughter about the spyware: “If she wanted to have a phone, that was going to be how it goes.”

No matter what monitoring device they use, it’s critical in today’s hyper-connected age that parents stay plugged in, said Mary McLaughlin, a cyber-security analyst for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Computer Crime Center. “Parents need to make sure they are as involved as they can be in their child’s digital life,” she said. “They need to stay on top of what their child is doing.”

 

 

Is your teen’s messy bedroom killing you?

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I can’t stand to look at my teenagers’ bedrooms. A mere glimpse in that direction puts me in a horrible mood and turns me into a nagging, screaming, nutcase!

I tell myself I’m going to punish my kids by leaving the piles of dirty clothes, used dishes and crumbled papers until they can’t stand to see them in their room anymore. But sometimes, I can’t stand it anymore…so I go in when they’re at school and straighten it up…just a little bit. I know, what you’re thinking…that I’m an enabler.

I’ve just stumbled onto an article in the Wall Street Journal that nails the dilemma I’ve been having: Bet you’ll love the title: When a Teen’s Bedroom Is Incorrigibly Messy, It’s Time for Extreme Parenting.

Here’s one tactic suggested by parenting expert Jim Fay, co-founder of the Love and Logic Institute. He recommends saying, “I’ll take care of it.” Then, get the job done in some way that satisfies you but “creates problems for the kid,” Mr. Fay says. “Maybe you hire a neighbor kid to clean up.”

In another scenario in the article, one parent picked up all the clothes on her daughter’s  floor, stuffed them in two garbage bags and hid them in the attic. When her daughter arrived home from school to a bare bedroom, there was screaming, and shouting, ‘How can I live without my clothes?’ “ The mom required her daughter to earn her clothes back by doing chores.

My mom had her own tactic when I was growing up: When she couldn’t take it anymore, she would wake me up an hour earlier for school to clean my room. That meant the light would go on abruptly at 5:30 a.m. There’s nothing worse for a teen than waking up an hour early in the morning to clean their room!

One family sought help from Douglas Riley, a clinical psychologist, in getting their 14-year-old daughter to clean up her bedroom. Riley, who has worked with families for 30 years, suggested that since she wasn’t bothered by the dirty clothes all over her floor, perhaps the whole family could start using her room as a laundry hamper. Her attitude changed after her parents and younger brother started tossing dirty laundry into her room, including a few soaked and smelly T-shirts and socks

So parents, what strategies have you used? Or do you think the battle isn’t worth it and do you just shut the door to your teen’s room and live with the mess?

Teens exchange Facebook passwords to show love

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Apparently, the new equivalent to teen sex or showing love is sharing your Facebook password.

Why are teens sooooo trusting of each other?

The New York Times reported today that teenagers are sharing passwords for Facebook, Tumblr and/or other accounts in order to show their trust and affection for each other and to assure their boyfriend/girlfriend they have nothing to hide.

NYT reported Tiffany Carandang, a high school senior in San Francisco saying that sharing her password with her boyfriend is “a sign of trust.”  But it can backfire! Emily Cole, 16, a high school junior in Glastonbury, Conn., was a victim of vicious exploitation after her ex-boyfriend read an e-mail she sent to another student she had a crush on. He then spread the e-mail around the school, calling her a “pervert.”

Rosalind Wiseman, an author who studies how teenagers use technology, compares sharing passwords to sex – the pressure in teenage relationships to give up something important ultimately defines how much they love each other. “The response is the same: if we’re in a relationship, you have to give me anything,” Ms. Wiseman said to NYT.

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted a study back in Nov. 2011 that showed one in three teens online have shared their passwords with significant others or friends. That’s 30 percent of all teens with girls being more likely to share their information than boys.

We all know how quickly a boyfriend/girlfriend or just a friend can become a frenemy during the teen years…and how breakups can be ugly, especially when they play out on the Internet. I know my daughter has a few of her friends’ Facebook passwords and I can never understand WHY they give them to each other.

Bottom line: as a parent, you might want to caution your teen —  encourage him or her to make sure showing teen love (or friendship) by sharing a password is worth the price of sharing your privacy.

Readers, what do you think of this new precursor to teen sex? Is it just an innocent way for teens to show love? Do you think it can lead to disaster?

Would you call the cops on your teenager?

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I just read a story that I could totally relate to and I love the commentary added by Lisa Belkin.

On the Huffington Post parenting blog Belkin writes: no one can get to us — worry us, provoke us, amaze us, infuriate us — like our own kids.

So true!

Here’s the latest example of kids who pushed mom to the brink:

In Salem, MA,  a mother called the police to report that her five children had been fighting all day, according to the local paper. The 15-year-old son punched his 8-year-old sister in the arm and their 16-year-old sister stepped in and was reportedly pushed to the ground.

When the arriving officers asked “what she felt we as a police department could do to help  assist her with the issues she’s having as a parent,” the incident report says, “the mother replied ‘I want them both out of here,’ ” referring to the oldest children. In the end, the state Department of Children and Families was called in, and the older son faces a court date where he’ll face charges for hitting his sister.

How many of you parents can relate to exactly what pushed this mother to the point where she responded this way? My hand is raised.

Have you ever been tempted to call the cops on your kids?

Do we really know our teenagers?

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My daughter said to me the other day after our daily/weekly “mother/daughter bonding” moment, that I really “didn’t know her.” She said that who she is around her friends is “who she really is.” Well, I then asked her ”Who are you?” She answered: ”Not who I am around here.”

What does that mean? Does she lead a double life?

Part of me was sad that she can’t  “be herself” at home, but did I really expect her to not be? I told her that I understood that the way she acts around her friends is not the way she acts at home. I was a teenager at one point you know.

This “teenage stage” is harder that I thought.

I truly believe teenagers want their privacy and want to be treated like adults — even if they aren’t. I also believe around friends they can be who they want to be or what they wish they could be, older, more mature. But at home, THEY ARE exactly what they are, teenagers, not adults, someone’s children, someone’s brother or sister.

I hope someday my daughter will be able to “be herself” around me, but then again aren’t we different around our friends than with our family?

Curious to know what you think?

Should you allow your teen to drink in front of you?

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I was brought up that it’s better to have your kids drink in front of you than behind your back. Being of Latin descent, drinking wine was as normal as drinking water. It was never abused but it was respected. Maybe that’s why I never had the urge to drink behind my parents back because the mystery was gone.

My daughter is at the age to where kids her age are drinking alcohol or at least trying to drink.

My daughter has asked me at family functions if she could have a taste of my wine. I let her taste it because I too believe in taking the mystery away from drinking and prefer to watch her taste it in front of me.  After about 2-3 sips and  she’s done. That’s her “adult moment”.  Do not get me wrong, I DO NOT condone teenage drinking in any shape or form. But I am sure she will go behind my back and drink and if she does, I want her to be smart and  informed about the dangers of teen drinking. No different than sex; now that’s another blog.

My daughter knows many teenagers have died because of drinking and driving and her dad and I  have spoken to her about drinking in general.

Communication, I believe, is key with your teen. Constantly talking but most importantly, listening to them. This is one of many tough roads I will be taking with my daughter, I just want to make sure we are on the road together when we go down it.

So, I ask you, what is your view on teen drinking and how to handle it? Should we be open with them and have them try it in front of us to take away the mystery or just say NO!?

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