If you haven't heard about Tommy Jordan, he's the guy who got fed up with his teenage daughter for posting a nasty-gram about him, his wife and the cleaning lady on her Facebook account, not once, but twice. Frustrated with her behavior and attitude, he took his reaction to Youtube. After informing his daughter of a few things, he took a pistol to her laptop, on camera, for all the world to see; yes, it went viral.
I understand his frustration. I truly do. We had teenagers here once, and we plan on having more very soon. They create more gray hair, even the ones who do well and stay on the straight-and-narrow. And I am not saying his daughter Hannah didn't have it coming to her.
I just would have handled it differently:
- I get the passwords to ANYTHING that is Internet-related. Change the password, lose your Internet privileges- it is a privilege, not a right.
- I am your friend on Facebook, your very good friend. So are a couple of aunts and uncles, to see what I don't. I can see your friends. I can talk to your friends. Set it up so I can't, and I find out- no Facebook until you are old enough to pay your own way.
- Nobody under 18 has an Android phone; texting yes, even text-multimedia, but no Internet. Phones are for safety reasons, not to increase the social life of teens, who already have quite the social lives.
- All the computers, including the Mister's and mine, are in the office. Adults who pay for their maintenance and ISP fees get first dibs. Kids get usage as needed and then as their behavior warrants, even big kids.
- I wouldn't have made a public case out of this, certainly not a world-wide case out of this, where the teenager's name is out there for all to see. That would mean MY identity would be out there, too. I'm a quieter person than that. I like the sudden surprise of a teenager coming home from school and finding his electronics gone: sold, turned off, gone; not just the laptop, but no online accounts, the sudden empty sound on the cell phone, Nintendo, Wii, Xbox, down to the automatic key ring.
Retread parents, you are going to get frustrated if you have any contact with teenagers. Things haven't changed that much since the last batch of teens you raised, just the technology that's been amped up. Teens still need love, boundaries and safe situations to attempt their ability to be their own person. We can only claim them as our legal dependents for so long. We don't want them growing up like the ones who put us in this position, and we also don't want them to be naive to the point of not being able to handle life on their own.
Before you use the family arms on the laptop or cell phone, think about DCFS, CPS, whatever you call them, showing up at your front door and pronouncing you crazy. They might take the problem child, but they also might take the others, too, to a round of foster care. That means involving the attorney, and he or she would rightly want money for this one.
Tommy Jordan is young and can handle that sort of stress. You aren't. Pick your battles.
When you do pick a battle, use finesse. Don't use a $1,000 tool where a $10 tool will do. And what seems the element of surprise is always classy in family warfare. Just ask the Borgias. You've done this sort of battle before today. You have Time and Experience on your side. Use both! You'll be a lot happier.