It's been opened, I fear. Monday Mr. T had a friend over, a nice kid who we really like. He brought his new ipod touch and the boys swapped recommendations for game downloads, songs, etc. Then the friend showed Mr. T a texting app. I had no idea that you could text using an ipod touch. I actually thought the app wouldn't work, but Mr. T downloaded it, and the boy told him, "I'll text you when I get home." Since Monday night, Mr. T has entered a whole new society.
Cut to last night: I sat playing mahjong on his toy while the boys finished watching a TV show. Twice I got a little message on the screen--two texts from a girl. I ignored them and when the boys' show was over, I called Mr. T over to hand back the ipod. "By the way," I said, "you got 2 messages from someone named Ava."
"Who is she?"
"I'm just curious--do you know her from school?"
"She spends 24/7 at her computer, Mom. I swear, she has no life."
"What does she text you about?"
Then he showed me--I skimmed the texts that he'd exchanged (I had no idea!) since Monday--mostly about school assignments, a few photos of people's dogs, nothing of great importance.
My mind processed this new situation.
On one hand, my slightly antisocial kid has a new way to interact with more people. Good. This might help inspire better spelling (I noticed one girl pointed out his errors in spelling "stoopid"). Good. I have no qualm about him interacting with kids his age about dogs and school assignments.
On the other hand, I'm well aware of the danger (Danger, Will Robinson!) associated with kids and technology. (It doesn't help at all that at tonight's Bumble Book Club meeting we're discussing This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman.)
I don't want to eavesdrop, read every text, hover and smother my son.
But I'm smart. Our laptop is in a public zone in our house--the boys do not have their own computers, game systems or televisions in their rooms. Mr. T bought his own ipod touch and I control the password so I can control what he downloads--he doesn't mind and so far it's not been a hassle. Mr. T borrows my cell phone as needed, none of them play online games (except for Lego Universe which will disappear at the end of this week), none of them are on Facebook, I'm aware of the sites they visit online and the media they ingest.
I want Mr. T to have independent relationships and evidently if he owns an ipod touch, he has access to texting.
How does a parent monitor this silent, private world of communication? It's so different than the days of passing notes (written on looseleaf paper folded into clever triangular shapes and covered with letters like "BFF" and "SWAK") between desks at school or talking on a telephone (connected by a twirly cord to the kitchen wall) where your entire family walked past as you chatted about boys and parties and who said what where, when and how.
We talked about this New-Fangled Texting Stuff and I told him that I trust him. He's a good kid with good judgment for his age. But I'm the parent, so as long as he's under my roof, I need to have a baseline knowledge of what's going on in his world. I told him I would occasionally check his texts--just skim through them from time to time to make sure the tone and topics are appropriate. "I won't tease you," I promised, "and I won't ask you tons of questions unless I think it's important. I don't care that Mary likes Nick or any of that stuff. I respect your privacy, but I need to make sure you're safe and stuff. Because I'm your mom and I love you."
Spill it, reader. I'm feeling my way through the dark, here (as often happens with your firstborn child). How do you handle kids and texting? Do you have rules? Boundaries? Checkpoints?