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Technology comes with lessons for parents

When it comes to teaching children the best way to use their handsets and other gadgets, clear communication is the best way to go

Technology can lead to trouble for teenagers if they aren't careful, and for parents teaching their kids how to use their gadgets appropriately can be a difficult task.

One thing that is clear is that the more communication between parent and child, the better.

Two recent stories are proof of that. One makes you wonder what everyone involved was thinking and the other is a good example of a parent determined to make sure her son responsibly uses a new gadget.

The Do's and Don'ts

According to The Guardian, a 16-year-old California girl and her 15-year-old friend are accused of circumventing a 10 p.m. Internet curfew by drugging her parents with sleeping medication the teenagers put into milkshakes the parents sent them off to retrieve from a fast food restaurant.

Even though the adults noticed an "odd taste" to the milkshakes and stopped drinking them, they were asleep an hour later and the teenagers were free to jump onto Facebook, follow Justin Bieber or whatever else they wanted to do online.

Alas, the parents woke up feeling hung over and tramped off to the local police station, where they pressed charges against the girls for "willfully mingling a pharmaceutical into food and conspiracy."

A couple of things come to mind.

First, considering the recourse the parents chose to take you have to assume their teenager isn't mentally impaired, or they wouldn't have thrown her into the slammer. While The Guardian story doesn't say whether the girls drove to McDonald's or Wendy's or wherever to get the adults their snack, at least one of them is old enough to drive -- to operate a machine with which she could kill herself or someone else if she doesn't behave responsibly.

Yet the 16-year-old is not, apparently, trustworthy enough to go online at night.

While there are certainly untold digital dangers lurking on the Internet for teenage girls regardless of the time of day, you'd think a good dose of communication between parent and child could have headed off this entirely stupid scenario.

The Right Track

Consider a different parenting approach, one that catapulted a mother of five and her 13-year-old son into the national spotlight after she gave him an iPhone for Christmas.

The gift came with some conditions, reported ABC News.

A letter a mom named Janell Burley Hofmann penned her son to accompany the phone has some good advice in it.

The guidance, according to the letter, includes:

--It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren't I the greatest?

--I will always know the password.

--If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads "Mom" or "Dad". Not ever.

--It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It's a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.

--If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.

--Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.

--Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

--No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person -- preferably me or your father.

--Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

--Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it.

--Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.

And what's the mom's advice if her child messes up?

The letter says: "I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together."


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