#FromLeft2Write: The Dinner by Herman Koch

The-Dinner-By-Herman-Koch-194x300This post was inspired by The Dinner, a novel by Herman Koch. Two brothers and their wives sit down for a tension-filled dinner to discuss a tragedy that can change both families’ lives forever. Join From Left to Write on October 29 as we discuss The Dinner.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

As a parent, I often worry about whether I’m doing the right things to ensure my children’s bright futures. Am I balancing my demands with what they need? Do we have them in enough activities? And just how much privacy do kids deserve?

When I was in high school, there was much about my life my parents didn’t know. While I sporadically kept journals, I’m nearly 100% certain they were never read by my parents. If they had been, there would have been a lot more talks about what was going on in my life and about the depression I often suffered from. The internet came to be a household thing when I was in my last year of high school–or, at least a scaled down version of it, with BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems) that you dialed into and participated on message boards. It required a little more know-how than the average–certainly more challenging than AOL, which was also starting to come into fashion then–but opened up the doors to a world I had not known before. That could have been filled with much more malicious souls than I encountered. I thought I knew what I was doing–never meet someone on your own, make sure you get to know them online first, and don’t believe everything you read. I met my husband on a BBS. I also met a few boyfriends before him that way. But I also consider myself very lucky. Things could have turned out differently.

The family computer resided in my parents’ bedroom, but that was the extent of their supervision. Many nights, long after they had fallen asleep, there I sat in the monitor’s glow, typing away. To whom? I had a general idea. But I was also very naive. My parents probably should have been more concerned.

My kids are growing up in a different world. Technology has surrounded them since birth. My son figured out how to use the Wii system when he was 3 years old. Not long after, he mastered my Nook, too. Last year, we gave them Meep! tablets for Christmas, so they’d have a place of their own to play their games, learn something new, and have a limited access to the internet. Meep!s come with built-in parental controls where you can determine how much time can be spent on apps, games, and the internet, and whether they can access the full worldwide web or only small portions of it you deem to be acceptable. It’s a first step.

My daughter received a cell phone for her last birthday present. Not because we wanted to spoil her–I’m still not entirely sure I like that she has it. But we do not have a landline and she wanted to be able to keep in touch with her friends over the summer. She has a very basic phone with a very basic plan and she’s been encouraged to text whenever possible, as we all share the minutes. Mostly she’s mystified by the phone and can’t figure out how to use it. She’s called her grandparents a few times and texted a friend who lives an hour away, but not often. And I check her phone often to see what she’s been up to. Because that’s my job. To protect her. To know what she’s doing. To be there to guide her through the minefields of life.

As they get older, there will only be more concerns. A former co-worker used to say Small children, small problems; Big children, big problems. With age comes wisdom, but not for some time. And while they are entitled to an amount of privacy, as all human beings are, I do not intend to hand the world over to them for quite some time. I expect to have them check in with me often. I will monitor their online activities. And their phones will be open books. I do not want to foster an environment where predators can easily access my most precious jewels. They probably won’t like it, but it’s for their own good.

Do you monitor your children’s activities? Or do you think that’s a violation of their privacy?

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    • Jessica on October 27, 2013 at 9:41 pm
    • Reply

    My husband once asked me my stance on giving our future child things like cellphones and iPods. I told him my issue with iPhone’s, iPods, iPads, etc. for a young child is the “I” part – encouraging a kid to be insular when they need to be learning how to interact with others. Not that I’m opposed to letting children have private time or privacy – I just want to be careful about when I think they are ready for such devices.

    It’s crazy though, isn’t it? You don’t want to disconnect them from technology too much, since children need to know how to work computers and all of that by grade school now.

    Great post!

    1. Those devices are like a vortex that suck you in… and leave you “i”solated, just like you’re saying. I was not in favor at first–the Wii discovery came about when I wasn’t home one day and someone else was watching him. It’s a difficult balancing act of keeping them in touch with the times, but keeping them in touch with humans, too. We’re trying.

  1. I think it’s so very important to monitor them as they learn to use these devices. At some point they’ll earn more freedom, but I think parents staying educated and up-to-date is vital in this day and age. Good for you!

    1. They’d certainly be lost without the knowledge to use these devices–it’s part of living today. But that doesn’t mean they should have open reign. Thank you!

  2. Totally monitor them. A good friend of mine had something set up with the phone company so ever text his daughter sent he also got. Invading privacy…yes…but also keeping an eye on our kids. We want to trust them but it’s a difficult world we live in and there is to much available to them online and beyond. I wish you the best! Love the name of your blog too!

    1. I like that! I wonder if we can set that up…? Wouldn’t certainly make it easier as she gets older. Trust is earned, right? We need to see that they’ve earned that right first. Thank you!

  3. There’s no denying that technology is integrated in to our lives now, and that our kids have an entirely different perspective being ‘digital natives’. As a teacher and parent, I believe its crucial to teach kids how to responsibly use technology as well as provide enough monitoring to catch any danger signs. If we constantly hover and kids don’t learn how to manage it alone, they will never be independent users. However, I’ve seen that most kids do know the right/wrong uses and will generally do the right thing.

    1. There is a fine line between hovering and helping. But kids also have a hard time figuring out what’s right and wrong and while they should make mistakes to learn the difference, technology makes it possible for some very large mistakes with major consequences. We’re all working our way through this together!

  4. Don’t stop monitoring those devices as your kids get older… It’s so easy for adults to impulsively post stupid and potentially dangerous things, imagine how much easier that click is for tweens and teens…

    1. Good point! If adults have problems with impulse control, it can’t be any easier for kids!

  5. Raising children in the age of information overload does present its problems, however, the ability to monitor them is also increased. My parents had no idea who I was on the phone with! And they likely should have!

  6. There’s definitely a lot more devices to monitor these days. My kids are still young but my oldest is definitely at the age where her friends are getting cell phones and their own tablets.

    1. It gets to be a bit overwhelming at times, doesn’t it? Life is so much easier in the long run if they learn this technology, but it scares me a bit!

  7. My mom monitored all my phone activity! Before cell phones my mom would shamelessly pick up the other landline extension to make sure I wasn’t talking to a boy or to inform my friends that it was my bedtime and when she got me a cell phone she went through the bills and highlighted every call I made at a late hour or any number I spent over 30 minutes talking to and confronted me to find out who I was calling! It was a bit over the top but she always knew who my friends were and to this day I’m a bit paranoid that Mommy will find out if I’ve been abusing my phone privileges! My mom was definitely on the stricter side but I love her for it and think I was better off for it as well.

    1. Ha! Love it! Your mom obviously cared very much! I had my own phone line in high school (that I paid for with my paper route and then jobs from the day I turned 16), so I didn’t have that kind of listening in.

    • jodifur on October 29, 2013 at 1:45 pm
    • Reply

    I also struggle with getting my son a phone but we also do not have a landline and I need to get him one before he can be in the house alone.

    1. That’s what I worry about. I work full-time and while they are cared for by someone else, what if something happens to their caregiver? They need to be able to tell someone.

  8. i definitely agree that today it makes more sense than ever for people to monitor their kids and technology. there is just so much out there – too much. i hear about 8 year olds having cell phones and i’m beyond baffled. i assume they’re already on computers enough…they don’t need one in their pocket too! i feel like an old geezer saying this but i grew up having to ask my parents before i could watch tv or use the computer and i think that’s still an excellent rule to keep in mind today.

    1. Well.. my daughter is 8 and has a cell phone. But that’s because we don’t have a landline and I want her to be able to get in touch with us if something happens when we’re not home. As for the computer–they only use it for a math homework website. No need for that yet.

  9. My poor children! No cell phones, no Ipads, in fact we may just move to little or no communication with the outside world. They use technology at school, and at home for school work, but they don’t have cell phones, although they are beginning to ask. My thinking on this is that now they don’t go anywhere without an adult who has one. For now they are buying this, for how long I don’t know. And when that changes, oh yes, I’ll be monitoring every bit of what they do. For their own good, because it’s my job to keep them safe, and teach them how to be safe themselves.

    1. You make a very good point. My concern was that, if something were to happen with their caregiver while I’m at work, I wanted my daughter to be able to reach us. My sister watches them and has 2 very young boys. It was a difficult decision, but without a landline phone in the house, we went for the cell phone. She is not allowed to take it outside the house though.

      We all need to do what we feel is best for our kids. I agree–it our job to keep them safe and teach them how to be, as well. Good job!

  10. I don’t have kids yet, but I don’t blame you for keeping a close eye on your kids. I don’t know what ages your kids are now but I think their privacy becomes their own when they’re no longer living in your home. When my nieces and nephews first created Facebook accounts when they were, in my opinion, too young to do so; I asked them for their passwords so I could play on their accounts for Farmville. I was really monitoring their inboxes. They knew I was watching them but people online can have a way of worming their way in and opening up a world they should know nothing about.

    …that’s my two cents… monitor them until they leave.

    1. Exactly. The world is full of wackos and the internet makes it so much easier for them to prey on those who don’t know any better (even if they think they do). Good job keeping an eye on your nieces and nephews!

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