Parent v Teenager – The Internet Wars

If you’re lucky enough to live in the Land of Unlimited Downloads, you won’t have heard of the Internet Wars. It’s shaping up to be the biggest battlefield between parents and their teenagers this world has ever seen. Well, maybe the biggest this country has ever seen. City? Well, okay, so it’s only my house but it’s definitely big.

Here in the Land of We’ll Screw You Over Every Chance We Get, unlimited Internet downloads are a luxury and an expensive one at that. Well, not so expensive if you’re prepared to sign up with an ISP with an unreliable performance record. So you can download all you want, provided you’re happy for it to take a week on snail speed.

Choosing an Internet plan in Complex Country takes a PhD in mathematical analysis. I’ve been told that in some countries, the decision to connect to the Internet comes down to “Will we have the Internet or not?” If only.

The decision here is “How much download do we need? How fast do we want it to go? What do we actually have access to? How reliable is the ISP? How much will it cost?” That last question is hard to quantify as all the other variables come in a dizzying array of options. It’s like comparing apples to toasters.

I’m told we are also paying through a Cyrano-sized nose for Internet access compared to other countries. I don’t know why. It’s a general trend across most technology in this country. Perhaps it’s just a carry over from the days when it took 3 months to deliver the post via ship. “All communication must henceforth be slow and expensive.”

So, why the Internet Wars? The battle comes into play when demand outstrips supply. Or, in other words, when the 12-year-old downloads half your monthly allowance in the first week. Cue Parental Rant.

If you manage to survive to the end of the billing cycle without getting shaped onto dial-up speed, there’s a chance the UN Peacekeepers could go home. But beware the last minute Charge of the Light Brigade as they charge through the last of your download in two hours, leaving you to update your blog later in the evening in a ‘hit Save Draft, go make a cup of tea’ cycle of pain.

Cue Parental Rant. Again.

Parental regulation rarely works. Let’s face it, most six-year-olds know more than we do about technology. They’re wizards at getting around restrictions. Throw a technologically-advanced, propeller-hat-wearing 17-year-old into the mix and you’ve lost the war before you even get out of boot camp.

But just as it seems time to pull out the white flag, free-market forces and self-regulation can come to the rescue. The day after one loud battle in which the words “unreasonable”, “selfish” and “if you want more download you can pay for it yourself” were at the fore, this appeared on the wall next to the computer:

Internet Rules

The war is probably not over but at least there’s a temporary ceasefire.

Postscript: I haven’t even touched on the battle to control what they’re actually accessing on the Internet. That’s like my own private Waterloo. With me as the short Corsican.



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Parents Get Peer Pressure Too

“Mum, it says it’s BYO alcohol. If you’re under 18, you just need a permission note from your parents.” My 17-year-old son was giving me the details to the latest 18th birthday party. I stared at him. “Well, I’m sorry but I’m not giving you permission.” He gave me a look of disappointment mixed with resignation. I could almost hear the voice in his head, “Great. I’ll probably be the only one”.

One of the toughest things I’ve found in parenting is finding the balance between maintaining my principles in regard to my parenting choices and helping my children navigate the tricky social world of school.

Parents get peer pressure too.

Pressure to buy the right toys, to see the right movies, to watch the right tv shows. It would be easy for us to limit them in any way we wanted, but it’s our children who have to bear the brunt of every decision we make in how they are then treated by their peers. It’s a delicate balancing act between giving in just enough to make life a little easier for them and holding fast to firm beliefs in what is right for them.

Gaming Hands

We refused to buy our boys one of those games consoles until our eldest was about 14. When we did relent (partly through a lack of ideas of what else we could give three boys for Christmas – there’s only so much Lego you can buy), we bought the one we thought we could live with. It wasn’t the coolest one or the most popular and we know lots of their friends have the other brands, but that was as far as we were prepared to go in compromising on our parenting principles.

Kids aren’t the only ones to cop it from their peers, either. We’ve certainly had comments from other parents saying that we’re being too tough or asking just how bad would it be if we let them have/see/do whatever.

I can live with the pressure from other parents. It’s watching my children fight to fit in when they can’t just follow the crowd that makes it tough.

Just Say No

After the look from my 17-year-old, I back-pedalled a little and said, “I’ll think about it”. I did and came to the same conclusion. I had asked myself, “What do I want to teach him here?” and realised I sure didn’t want to teach him you should go against what you strongly believe to be right just to fit in. This is exactly what we shouldn’t be teaching our teenagers. ‘Just Say No’ has to be a mantra for parents as much as the kids.

But sometimes it’s about compromise. I bought him some fancy schmancy non-alcoholic ginger beer that came in the same sort of bottles as alcoholic alternatives so he could have a ‘drink’ in his hand without us having to give in to peer pressure.

He had a great time.

And he wasn’t “the only one”.

Peer Pressure



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