Why only parents need driver’s licenses

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My daughter turned 16 yesterday. Yep, I’m thinking about hiding the car keys.

I remember how excited I was to turn 16. It meant I could finally take my mother’s orange Nova for a spin on my own. I picked up a few of my friends and drove around the neighborhood. Oh yeah…I was hot stuff!

My daughter is just as excited to get her license as I was decades ago. She, too, thinks she’s hot stuff behind the wheel.

For the last year, I’ve sat like zombie in the passenger seat, letting out gasps as I teach her to drive. Truthfully, she’s not a great driver, yet. She brakes abruptly, doesn’t notice cars about to back into her in parking lots and she’s still figuring out how to change lanes. She needs more practice, and some lessons. Of course, she thinks she’s ready for me to turn over the keys and abandon the passenger seat.

Last night, I was telling her not to pull over at night just because she sees flashing lights behind her. I gave her the lecture about how some weirdos try to “pretend” to be police officers. She thinks I’m insane. Maybe I am….there’s just that extra layer of insanity that kicks in for parents when your kid is alone on the road.

Life would be so much easier if just parents were given driver’s licenses.

Apparently, most teens aren’t in a rush to get their licenses. More are delaying that freewheeling rite of passage. I just read an article in the Sun-Sentinel that said teens aren’t all that interested in driving.  Many are waiting way beyond their 16th birthday. The article gives three reasons why:

First, teens care much more about connecting with each other electronically than in person. Second, owning and insuring a car and filling it up with gas is expensive. Lastly, kids don’t want to make the time to learn to drive — they’re too busy with homework and all the school demands.

Personally, I think it’s a good thing that kids are waiting longer to drive — especially when texting and driving is a huge problem. When I drop my kids at high school, I get a firsthand look at how teens drive and I have one word to describe it— SCARY!

What do you think about the trend of teens waiting longer to get their driver’s licenses? Do you think it’s a good thing — more mature, more responsible? Or do teens need the practice to start young and become better drivers? What do you consider the perfect age for someone to get their license?

 

 

Teenage love: Should we encourage or discourage it?

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My son is in love — big time!

He has proclaimed his love for his new girlfriend in words I never knew were in his vocabulary. I know this because I’ve become a top secret spy, trying to decipher teen code.

On Valentine’s Day, my son wrote her a handwritten card, declaring his eternal love and telling her he has never met anyone like her. His text messages are equally as sentimental. While I know she likes him back, at least her text messages say so, I worry about the intensity of his love.

I’ve forgotten how emotional teens can be when they think they are in love. It’s such naive infatuation that adults just can’t relate because we’re so many years past feeling the same way.

But as a mom, I’m worried.

I know this girl makes my son happy, and I want to encourage him. But I’m asking myself: Can he put this relationship in perspective? How will he handle it if and when this relationship ends? Even if I discouraged the relationship, would it make a difference?

I keep reminding him that he’s a great kid, with or without a girlfriend. Of course, that only gets me the eye roll (I’m sure most of you parents know what I’m talking about!)

So, I went to the kidshealth blog for some guidance: “For people falling in love for the first time, it can be hard to tell the difference between the intense, new feelings of physical attraction and the deeper closeness that goes with being in love.”   TRUE!

The site, aimed at kids, also says: “If it’s your first real love and the relationship ends before you want it to, feelings of loss can seem overwhelming. Like the feelings of passion early in the relationship, the newness and rawness of grief and loss can be intense — and devastating. There’s a reason why they call it a broken heart. Losing a first love isn’t something we’ve been emotionally prepared to cope with.

From all the advice for kids, I gleamed this piece of 411 for parents: When a relationship ends, teens need support. Apparentely, adults often  expect younger people to bounce back and “just get over it.”

Experts suggest helping your teen find someone he can talk to who really understands the pain he’s going through. If its not you, then maybe it could be a friend or a therapist or a teacher or coach.

A came across an article that offers teens pretty good advice for Getting Over a Break-Up. I’m going to keep it handy — just in case I need to give it to my son.

Parents, have you tried to discourage your teens from getting romantically involved in high school? Do you think it makes a difference if a parent encourages or discourages a teen relationship? How have you supported your teen through a break up?

 

 

Shopping with your teen for work clothes: adventures at The Gap

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My daughter Olivia recently got hired at our local Publix and is going for her all-day orientation this Saturday.

I am very excited for her because she will now hopefully learn how to multi-task/balance school, sports, work and her social life and earn her own $.

Publix, of course, has a dress code for their employees. Olivia needed to buy appropriate attire for her orientation. We needed to buy Black Khaki pants and button-down top. For most of us this would have been easy. Well, for a 14, soon to be 15-year -old teenager, this was not easy at all….NO!

I told Olivia we would go to The Gap to get her her pants and top. What an adventure that was!

First, we go into the store and she tries to tell me that they are “allowed” to wear tights black Khaki pants. I said, “”No, that is not work appropriate.” When I showed her some of the pants, I knew she would not go for what she calls “baggy” look. I let her peruse the store with the generous help of the store attendant. I said NOTHING during her adventure. I let her pick pants to try on and whichever one she liked she would come out and show me. I told her not to worry about the length, that we could hem it.

Well, she came out with one pair and to me it was not as loose as I would want it but, it was appropriate for her job. Meeting her half way was fine. When I looked at the price of the pants- $60, I was shocked!  Should I really pay $60 for a pair of khakis for work? I told her we would buy more pants but not there. We would need to check other stores. She was specific on which stores NOT to go into of course. We went to Macy’s, Aeropostale and of course my favorite store as you know..Hollister (please note, I did NOT buy anything for myself at Hollister). Can you believe none of these stores had black pants for a teen? Only jeans and very casual cotton pants/capris. Can you believe there wasn’t any other stores that we could buy more pants other than The Gap?

I told Olivia, that I was going on the JC Penny website and I was sure they would have pants for her less than $60. To my surprise, she said nothing. I’ll take that as a “Yes, thank you very much.”

When we were in Hollister, we bought this really cute preppy long sleeve shirt that I could not believe she liked. There is hope for us yet! I am very proud that we did not fight every step of the shopping trip. Was it because we were limited in our store selection or that she’s maturing and realizing what is “work appropriate” or both?

So, parents, have you gone work clothes shopping with your teen? Was it a fun experience or a fiasco?

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?

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