Skype, FaceTime, Privacy and Our Kids

Do you own an IPhone?

Do you own an Ipod?

Do you own an Ipod Touch?

Do you own an Ipad?

Do you own a computer?

Would you allow a boy in your 14-year old daughter’s bedroom at night alone with the door closed?

My guess is, you answered “NO” to the last one.

While sitting in a meeting last week, a girlfriend of mine had a pressing issue she wanted to discuss. No, it had nothing to do with our school meeting, it was more 5 women sitting in a kitchen with our ‘mommy hats’ on.

She proceeded to tell us, that her son in Grade 5, has been having quite the time video chatting with his friends. Sounds fun! But that means, if your kids have an Ipod Touch, an old deactivated Iphone, a computer in their room, or are borrowing your Ipad, they have the ability to literally be “hanging” with their friends until all hours of the night unsupervised. And that means, “hanging” in possibly inappropriate ways.

She talked about her son on FaceTime (video calling) recently with two girls who were together at a sleepover. The girls were in little tees and pj’s, playfully talking into the camera to him. Now granted, the kid is in Grade 5, and I’m sure it’s all pretty harmless at this stage. But, jump ahead a couple of grades, and this can become a real serious issue.

Teen on Skype in her bedroom

Now unless you are a happy helicopter parent, I am sure you will admit that your children need breathing room, privacy, and the chance to grow. That often means allowing kids the room to falter, make mistakes, and then troubleshoot their way to a solution on their own. In this instance, that could mean laying down the rules, and then allowing your children to handle this new technology on their own, and hope they do it responsibility. I really believe this to be true to a certain extent. I will NOT be the mom completing my kids’ Science project so they can win first place. I am fully aware that this takes place, and I am also fully aware that these are the kids who win… the ones whose parents are doing it for them. But that is not how I want my child to grow up and learn. He will do his own Science project, and will not come in first place, but at least it will be HIS OWN.

But back to Skype, FaceTime, technology, your kids and respecting their privacy without exposing them to harm. This new craze brings with it new concerns. Video chatting truly brings new elements to privacy issues. No longer is it just WHO your kids are communicating with, but video chatting lets people into your home in a very real way. According to this mom in my meeting, it is no different than inviting someone into your home or in many cases your into kid’s bedroom. Many parents who don’t allow their kids to have computers in their bedrooms for security reasons don’t realize that kids who have an Ipod touch (which many do), have the capability to video chat from this device. That means that while this is a cool music and game playing device, it is also like having a computer in their rooms.

Having said that, she went on to ask us the same question I asked above, “Would you let your daughter (or son) have a person of the opposite sex in their room with the door closed? What is to stop them from video chatting at 1 or 2 am with their girl or boy friends?” Sexting is a concern that has received much attention of late. Video chatting brings this concern to a whole new level.

What troubled my friend even more, is that when she brought up this topic and asked these questions to parents, most said they never thought of it that way and were horrified by the implications. In some cases, parents didn’t even realize that Ipods had that capability.

With our kids’ busy schedules, video chatting is a great way for them to keep in touch with camp friends, get help for homework, do group projects and just have fun with friends. But as my girlfriend put it, “When my 11 year old son video chats with his friends (which he is only allowed to do at our family computer in the KITCHEN and doesn’t have this feature on his Ipod touch thankfully), we need to set up a whole new set of rules that keep up with our ever evolving technological world.”

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What do you think? What are your thoughts or suggestions in setting up these guidelines? Please share with our community…

xoxEDxox

46 Comments
  1. I have been saying this to my husband for months. Although I do agree it can get dangerous there is no physical contact with video chatting so thank goodness for that. But I do think each household should set down rules based on the children’s ages. Great topic.

  2. I completely agree with your friend. I find this new technology very scary for ourselves and our kids. There is also the addiction factor. These “I” whatevers are so addictive and I think they have replaced real human relationships. Its all very sad.

  3. You know you’re able to shut off WiFi in a house at anytime. That would be a great suggestion for kids abusing the system. Also teens don’t need to have their ipod touches in the bedroom at night. Moms should remove them if it’s causing an issue. I agree letting a kid Skype at night unsupervised is no different than leaving your daughter alone with a boy and the door closed.

  4. Hi Erica – great food for thought in this post. There was a big article in the NY Times yesterday around a sexting scandal and 8th graders. It was scary, and even scarier – I know that it was not isolated. There have been many occurrences locally that I know about. Middle School kids are sexting like you would not believe. My boys are a few years older than yours, and it is a huge fear. I agree – I do not want to be a helicopter parent either – but, as parents, we have to stay on top of texting and social media with our kids. Setting rules is important, but also teaching them right from wrong and being available to them is also important. Remember to talk to your kids early and often because studies have found that if the lines of communication are not set by the time a child is 12, it is very hard to establish. Rachel

  5. Hi Erica,

    I could not agree more. My son is 16 now. As you can imagine, it is difficult to control waht he does at this stage. But from early age the rule was bedroom is for sleeping. I never allowed TV, computer or laptop in his room. It is a bit tougher for IPod but it is not IPod Touch, so no video chatting.

    The rules should be introduced at the early age. And it shoould not be just about use of the devices but what devices are appropriate for what age.

    It worked for my son.

    1. We just had to pull back the freedom on electronics in our house. New rules: no ipad, psp, etc… during the week at all. Only weekends. Kids were slowly taking advantage.

      Also, the friend above told me some solutions: as Jessica said, you can shut off the wifi in your house. This is good to know. Also, she said she knows families who keep the chargers all in one room, in the den for example, and nighttime is for charging electronics, not using them. Also, imposing a family shut down time is another good thing to do as well.

  6. My husband and I have discussed this subject several times lately. Never has there been such a need for boundaries, and it’s harder than ever to enforce those boundaries successfully. The world is at our children’s fingertips – all the good and evil. I don’t believe they are mature enough to handle the entire world.

    Great post! Very timely.

    -FringeGirl

    1. I agree — “Never has there been such a need for boundaries, and it’s harder than ever to enforce those boundaries successfully. ”

      Setting Skype boundaries is a good idea – we are thinking about making it available certain times of day (you can control this). Then also limit the amount per day and tell the child you will be looking at the account to see who they are Skyping with and for how long.

  7. If everyone does their homework on the technologies that are available this day in age, you will find that these devices typically require wireless internet for this kind of functionality. My guess is that the same Router that provides internet to all of your devices in your home is also capable of filtering out traffic, or even better, LIMITING internet connection to specific devices.

    We’re not all technological geniuses, but know that there is a VERY good chance that the technology in your home has the ability to limit what can and cannot be used and CAN be effectively passworded/locked to prevent being tampered with.

    Thankfully, at 1.5 and 5 years old, my own children are still on the young-side for these concerns, although I know it will come sooner than I expect. I agree that we must let them grow and experience different adversity in order for them to learn reason and troubleshooting, but I do not believe this has to come at a lack of technological awareness.

    Keeping an open and honest dialog should always be forefront in any relationship, especially with your children. There is a fine line between fairness and lack of action. Read that manual that came with your wireless internet router. Still confused? Contact that computer guy that you know, or better yet, spend some time with Google!

  8. You have to love how the bored/ angry Republican assumes that “all” teens drink or that they all take drugs or what ever excuse you wish to use to control them. If YOU raised them right, you shouldn’t have to worry.

    1. Leave it to some partisan adolescent to say something; stupid. Was learning something new until you opened your mouth… dolt. Keep on hating, hater. Although I heard bored/angry Republicans have camps for your type.

  9. Get your kids in the habit of leaving their device I’m your room for the night, ‘to charge’. Do it now while they’re young. When they transition to using cell phones, it will be so much easier to enforce. It’s a shame they can’t take advantage to all technology has to offer them. I’m constantly trying to find middle ground on this.

  10. My childs school issued IPADS to all the students with FACETIME on it!! One, my child does not own a cell phone because she could not be responsible with it when she had one. The school is removing this feature from her IPAD per my request, but my goodness. We as parents are supposed to help our kids, but it seems the world just wants us to let them run free and they are not ready for that. I wish we were back in the old days where you only had house phones. Boy our parents had it a lot easier.

    1. Hi, I could not agree with you more. It’s difficult to say NO to your children with all the technology out there.
      Parents should speak out on this issue and refuse to buy these devices for their children.

      1. I completely agree. I am just dealing with this now! These girls think they need to do this to get these boy’s attention and for them to like them. A lot of the girls have low self esteem and it makes them feel liked. I know so many parents that didn’t realize what we were doing as kids, but even more so now they are blind of what kids are doing. I think there should be a way to block these so they aren’t aloud to do this skyping. It just scares me to death!

  11. i think that if your kid can come up with 5 good not fluffy reson why they should be aloud and they have good reson then say yes but you have to ask before you video call someone on your ipod, and if they can’t say no if they think or you think you are being to strick then ask other parents to get their opininon

  12. Howdy, I ran across your internet site by means of Search engines while searching for a similar make any difference, your blog came up, it seems like to be great. We’ve included in my favorites|put into bookmarking.

  13. i love this app t is so easy because u dont have to pay but the worst thing about it is that it always frezzes but hey it still works so i am happy

  14. Hi! This post could not be written any better!
    Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this write-up
    to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    Thank you for sharing!

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