There’s An App for That?
My mother is glad she does not have to parent in these times, and that is from a woman who weathered the heart of the Seventies and Eighties. Back then, the TV was either on or off, and she knew we were working on reports because of the clatter of a (gasp) typewriter or crumpled balls of paper. Now a teen on a device for hours might be (a) watching sloth videos, (b) learning Korean in case she meets her K-pop crush, (c) actually doing homework, or (d) doing something worse. Parenting young adults today involves understanding why Kendrick won a Pulitzer. There’s serious stuff going on out there. Dinnertime conversations, when they happen, veer into debates like why friends would be grounded for weeks for drinking, pot smoking or Juuling, by parents who greet 5 pm with a raised wineglass and tell stories about campus highjinks. Please. People parent out of worry and stress, and I don’t feel comfortable analyzing anyone’s parenting but my own. It’s hard.
Or perhaps you’ve heard about the new apps – plural – that help “young people” communicate with lovers. These apps are not for finding a lover, but to communicate with a person to whom consent is already or about to be given for sex. Whether or not you are in possession of a college student, or let’s be honest, a high schooler, take a moment to digest that. Really?
Option 1 is ignoring it. Nobody wants to imagine a son or daughter typing the parameters of what they are or aren’t willing to do into a phone, to have data compared and areas of agreement pop up on the screen of a person in the same room. Ew. And if students change their minds between dinner with a crush and a sloppy bad-breath kiss? Some apps don’t allow for updating preferences. That’s bad news. So a Crazy Modern Parent may wish to consider Option 2.
Option 2: “Sooo… funny story I read the other day. Ever hear of such a thing?” Brace yourself for a disgusted, shocked reaction. Not at the information. At you. Now, though, Crazy Modern Parent has an opening to get at what you really want – nay, need – to communicate. Don’t worry, this does not involve review of the various app questions. We are not going there. What you can do is offer a rushed summary of parental concerns: “These things don’t prevent a bad situation, especially if you’ve given consent AND talking with a date early about how slow you want to take things and being crystal clear about declining in a firm way at ANY moment is appropriate AND please respect and like the person you are with, AND don’t be with someone who doesn’t respect and like you.” Repeat that last part, because parents are repetitive. And mention that details given to an app are out there for strangers, because Crazy Modern Parents are good with data security pointers.
If your child is blushing as much as you and grunts something like “Got it,” shift the conversation to K-pop, sports or weather. You addressed sexual consent and the app, and what you want them to demand of a relationship. If your child pursues this awkward topic further, relax. Talking about sex with teens doesn’t have to involve talking about details. It involves communicating their value in this world, perhaps with this idea, credited to a friend. She hosted an afternoon tea for her two using lovely cups purchased at a thrift store. She poured, they selected what went into it from an array of options, had some cake. Being with someone, she told them, is like having tea. You need to be able to ask for what you want, what you don’t want, and have requests honored. When she finished her tea, she smashed the cup into pieces against the floor. Never, she continued in a gentle voice, spend your valuable time with someone with whom you can’t communicate or who doesn’t treat you respectfully, like a teacup should be treated. And hold others in the same regard. Trust me, this works.
And maybe that’s how the Crazy Modern Parent makes it work. We share ideas from the analog and digital realms we cross on how to tackle challenges that are no longer one or the other. As long as we take the time to see everything our children dealing with, then take a deep breath and consider the real message they need, we can help them through anything with love.
In addition to writing for various publications over the years, JE Hosom makes her living doing marketing strategy and communications, including writing materials for various companies and speeches for corporate executives to a Presidential candidate. She lives with her husband near Boston, and has two children, one living in New York City and one in college.