Coping with Teenagers in an Age of Too Much Information

Why do they tell parents things we don't want to know?

I was once again talking to strangers at Starbucks and got into an interesting conversation about how parents of today suffer from information overload from their kids. When I was a teenager, I told my parents nothing. If there is such a thing as “less than nothing,” that’s what I told them.

Now kids feel comfortable discussing all kinds of details about their social lives that we really don’t want to know. Except we do. It’s like rubbernecking on the highway after a gruesome accident.  We kind of hope to see something we really don’t want to see.

Obviously kids don’t tell us absolutely everything. All parents have been lied to at one time or another, and teens usually leave out incriminating details but, by and large, kids today are way more open than we ever were. Why is this?

Personally, I was terrified of the wrath my mother would bestow upon me, which included going after me with a hairbrush, and not just any hairbrush, a round one so I could get smacked with the bristles at every angle. My boys are definitely not worried about physical retribution since they outweigh me by about 70 pounds and could stuff me in the dryer if they were so inclined, which I’m pretty sure they would never do. Although the nice man I was speaking with at Starbucks did tell me he once locked his tiny mother in the bathroom because she was trying to have at him with a vacuum cleaner attachment.

I believe it’s also more difficult to lie because technology has made it so kids are easier to track. I would take off and tell my parents I was going to the library when I was really going to a Beach Boys concert and they would really never know the difference. Now, with caller ID, texting, Facebook, and so on, it’s much harder for teenagers to disappear and, if they do, it’s much easier to catch them.

PowerSchool and online grade books have made it impossible to hide grades as well. Again, we could just not check up on them, but of course we do anyway. Most kids know they are being stalked so they either get very good at deception or take the easier route — just tell the truth.

When I listen to parents say they know things about their kid they wish they could un-know, I take it as a sign of a good relationship. Yes, kids sometimes over-share, but that’s because they trust us.They know that if they call us to pick them up at a party rather than get in a car with a drunk driver we won’t send them to military school. That’s not to say there should be no consequences when they do something really stupid. Kids feel safe when there are rules and structure.

Even though it does cause some very awkward moments, it really is better if our kids more or less tell us about their lives. Although you may want to run screaming from the room, paste a neutral expression on your puss and listen to the uncomfortable details. Just be prepared when you ask questions because odds are you’ll actually get answers.

Cornelius (Neil) Lynch July 14, 2012 at 03:35 PM
From "Let it all hang out" to twitter. Intellectual torpor.
Marcie July 15, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Social media is fine...as long as it is monitored and restricted. Taking away a cell phone, xbox or facebook is a great disciplinary tool. But I do wish putting one of those GPS trackers in my kids was allowed. :)
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