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First of all, hovering is exhausting — and often useless. Nearly 70 percent of teens say they hide some of what they do online from their parents. So, let me put it another way: I could waste a lot of time online trying to find my real kid on Instagram — or worse commenting on his fake profile on Facebook … or I could get out there and enjoy life. I’ve got miles to log on my Fitbit, probably dozens of Jim Gaffigan specials I haven’t seen yet and more than a few Medium rants about Trump I’d much rather read.
If you hover, when exactly do you unplug? Never. That’s a drag. I proudly live most days with zero FOLO (Fear of Living Offline). I can go hours without checking it. I enjoy doing the grocery shopping, visiting neighbors and hanging out with the dog in the back yard until then — oh yeah, I think, maybe I’ll check the phone that is tethered to the wall charger in the kitchen. Just like the good old days.
Sure, some days, I don’t actually see the text from my kid that says he wants to come home now. “Right now, mom!” (Still, I think I’m doing okay. At least his parents didn’t send him to Canada alone at age 12 to visit a family friend—without a passport—and only a beeper number to give immigration to call in case of emergency. Yes, really, mine did that. You can’t make this stuff up.)
As a non-hoverer, I could go a week without speaking to my college-age daughter. Are we any less close? I doubt it. We have a lot to say to each other. And when we don’t, we don’t. Any attempt to stay in constant touch would probably result in excessive screen time, mind boggling AT&T bills and less time for her to actually be with her friends, her books and her newly adopted city of Boston. It’s called going away to college for a reason. You go away.
Do I think that my kids are saints who never do or say anything even slightly embarrassing online? Please. I hid 70 percent of what I did with my friends when I was their age too — in the trash can or in the back seat of a friend’s car. Times have changed, and yet they haven’t.
I invite you to tell me the biggest victory you have had as a helicopter parent when it comes to your child’s digital life. Enough with the carrots and sticks. Over-managing your kids is distracting you from the job you really should be focused on as a digital parent: Learning and doing new things online that give you some sense of purpose. But then, you ask, when and how will your teenagers learn to do the right thing? Maybe when you give them some autonomy. Welcome back to the new school year, parents.
Denise Brodey is a content/branding consultant, mental health advocate/author Inspired daily by @digcitsummit #digcit and #crazysmart #screensmart people. Follow her on twitter (@dbrodey) and check out her website (DigCitSummit).