When I was a teenager, back in the dim and distant past, my mom made me carry a 10 pence piece everywhere I went (even just to the corner shop!). Eventually, as costs rose, it became a 20 pence piece. She always checked that I had it tucked into my pocket and made me promise not to lose it. Why? Well, this was in the ’80s, long before the dawn of mobile phones, and my mother felt safe knowing that should I ever need her, I could reach her by jumping into a phone-booth and using that precious coin. I must admit, I felt safer too, knowing there was always a lifeline to home.
Parenting-wise, her rules were pretty relaxed: You have 100 percent trust, so always tell me the truth about where you are going and always have that 10 pence piece in your pocket. My mom believed that if I betrayed or disobeyed her, the trust percentage would go down and that’s when grounding or loss of privileges would come in. So, being a kid who didn’t want to risk her wrath and enjoying my 100 percent credit, I stuck to those rules my entire teen life. That’s not to say I didn’t tell an occasional lie about where I was going or stay out past my curfew, but by and large I adhered to the rules.
Nowadays of course, there is no need for the 10 pence coin. Most teens have their own mobile devices, as well as tablets and laptops and all sorts of other gadgets. So you’d assume that teens would be in frequent contact with their parents, and in turn their parents less worried. After all, if they need to reach their child, they’re just at the end of the phone (which is usually glued to their hand).
But kids will be kids, and if they’re out somewhere they maybe shouldn’t be (at a house party instead of at the library studying? ), they aren’t going to answer the call from mom and dad. Let’s face it: You wouldn’t either, would you?
Enter Sharon Standifird. This mom had enough and came up with a new app that makes it impossible for your kid not to call you. Ignore No More (currently available for Android, with an iPhone version in the works) enables parents to lock children’s phones remotely, turning the screen black. They can’t consult Facebook or Twitter, play games, or call anyone until they return an ignored call or text. (They can, however, dial emergency services.)
Take that teen! You have to call mom or dad if you want access to your beloved phone. Quite a tactic! Plus, the app has a tracking feature that allows you to monitor your kid’s phone’s whereabouts on a map, so you know where they are for sure! Standifird, a Texas mother of two, consulted with designers and developers for months and has found the app popular with like-minded US parents. However, her own kid Bradley isn’t so jazzed on the idea, saying, “I thought it was a good idea, but for other people, not me.”
Therein lies the problem. If you trust your teen, then why do you need the app? Plus, if you lay down such strict forms of control, what’s to say that your teen won’t rebel even further, getting a secret phone or “forgetting” their phone so you can’t reach them at all. As a teen, I remember having friends whose parents never ever seemed to trust them. Instead of my buddies respecting their parents and their wishes, it simply lit a flame that made them more inclined to disobey rules and create trouble. Their attitude was, “If my parents don’t trust me, then I may as well prove them right!” If you’re calling your kid ad nauseam, it’s time you asked yourself why. If your kid isn’t getting back to you, maybe you are calling too much, and if so, you gotta cut them some slack.
I always thought the teen years were about setting boundaries and letting kids explore and break away from your parental ties bit by bit until they’re ready to head of to college or leave home. The key part in this is letting them learn from their own mistakes, trusting them, and teaching them to respect themselves. With an app like this, what are we saying? We simply don’t trust you to call us back — to be adult about your safety — so we’re going to control you, even when you’re miles away?
I get that every parent wants their child to be safe at all costs. I get that teens become moody and withdrawn and grouchy and secretive. I get why this app sounds like a terrific idea. But one of the rites of passage of growing up is taking responsibility for our actions and being trusted to make the best decisions for ourselves. With apps like this, are we not guilty of holding onto the apron strings a bit too long? Of telling our kids that we don’t trust them to comply with our rules? If we don’t trust them, then why on Earth let them have a mobile phone in the first place?
What do you think? Will you be buying the Ignore No More app? It’s not for me, but as my kids have yet to hit teendom, maybe I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. In 10 years, maybe I’ll be amping to install it … or maybe not.