Monday, July 9, 2012

The Importance of Cell Phones as a Parenting Tool

When I first decided to foster Booger's teen birthmom, I knew I was going to have to find inventive ways to keep tabs on her.  I'm a full-time working mom, and I couldn't be there 24/7.  I very quickly discovered the importance of the cell phone.  Yes, that stinkin' thing was literally in her hand 24 hours of the day and drove me to the point of near insanity, but that fact also gave me a powerful parenting tool.  A teen and her cell phone...  A precious bond...  A precious bond that I could use to my advantage...  *** Insert evil laugh ***  ;-)

Step one in "Operation Wireless Stalker Mama" was to learn the lingo.  You can't beat them at their own game if you can't understand a "word" they're saying.  I am pleased to say that I eventually successfully mastered the language of Teen Speak, and can now carry on a conversation with the best of them.  (Speaking of, I should probably update my resume while I'm thinking about it now that I am bilingual and all...)  LET THE SPY GAMES BEGIN!!!  *** Insert another evil laugh just because I can! ***

Step two - Observation.  I spent several days observing my subject (aka. Angel) in order to discover how best to use this cell phone thing to my advantage.  It was abundantly clear that my first line of attack would be threats and bribery when necessary.  Anyone who sleeps with the cell phone in hand has an obvious addiction .  One threat of loss of said device will usually result in a total 180 in negative behavior.  If not, the best method of removal is to take the SIM card and/or the battery out and hand the unusable phone back to the offender.  It's kind of humorous watching them longingly stare at the blank screen.  That's where the bribery comes in...  "Clean your room and you can have your SIM card back."  You might be surprised how quickly that bed gets made!

Step three in utilizing cell phones as a parenting tool involves making good use of your online cell phone account.  It is amazing what all you can discover when you take full advantage of all of the features that come with managing your account online!  Want to know who your kid could possibly be talking to 24/7?  Just go online and you'll know exactly who she's talking to.  I programmed all of her frequently used numbers straight onto the account for quick and easy reference.  Don't recognize a number?  Call it.  Think your teen isn't being completely honest with you when they say, "So and so wants to know if I can come over..."  Just go online and see who she's actually been talking to.

I also got really smart and activated the GPS tracker.  I knew there was no way she was going to part with that phone, and she wasn't about to turn it off or the withdrawals would set in.  I could easily go online and track her location at any time.  Stalker-ish?  Perhaps.  But I knew where my kid was, and more importantly, I knew whether or not she was where she was supposed to be.  I always knew if she was up to something when there was unusual activity on her phone ("unusual activity" as in no activity.  There was always activity on her phone, so if there was a lull, I knew to investigate. ;-).

I'll be the first to admit that I made a ton of mistakes when it came to parenting Angel.  I was in way over my head and had no clue what I was doing.  It was definitely a learning experience.  I learned a lot of lessons the hard way though, and I kind of feel bad for the next teenager who comes to live with me (if I ever get brave and actually let one move in, that is).  They'd better really like their new mom, because I have a feeling they'll be spending the vast majority of their time in my company.  ;-)  But during those times when I can't be with them, I'll know that I have my handy-dandy secret spy weapon at my disposal.  Cell phones ROCK!!!

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