---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002 23:27:45 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: New era of snooping parents [60s parents]
New era of snooping parents
Research shows that people who came of age in the '60s are more
By Daniel B. Wood | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
February 21, 2002
SHERMAN OAKS, CALIF. - Over three-bean salads and wheat-grass smoothies,
mother and daughter Peltier are debating tough love.
"I'll come out and say it: I read my daughter's e-mails and I check to see
what websites she's visited," says Dorothy Peltier, as her 17-year-old
suppresses a "don't embarrass me" scowl outside the Baja Fresh Cantina
here. "I think the times demand it," says Mrs. Peltier, an unemployed broker.
It is a trend that is growing. Mothers and fathers, barraged with accounts
stretching from Columbine murder plans to post-9/11 copycat terrorism, say
they're becoming more watchful of children in a new millennium where the
standards of "normal" parenting can become shorthand for "negligent."
In fact, experts say that strategies like Mrs. Peltier's, while not
necessarily the norm, suggest the emergence of a tougher approach to
discipline by many parents - particularly baby boomers. Ironically, this is
the group that, as adolescents, was among the most promiscuous and libertine.
The shift toward more surveillance and Sunday-school strictness could lead
to a redefinition of privacy for some minors - from scrutinized diaries, to
regular bedroom searches, to taped phone conversations. To detractors, it
just reflects an age-old impulse by parents to overcontrol and micromanage
their children's affairs - the parent as staff sergeant.
"There is a movement afoot by parents trying to deal with the issue of
their children running free and parents not being aware," says Michael
Obsatz, a sociologist at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., and author
of "Raising Non-violent Children in a Violent World." "In a world of
increased availability of guns, drugs, violence, and media messages that
normalize them, parents have gotten scared and are being more vigilant."
This week in California, a new university study of parents who came of age
in the 1960s found that many parents say they have rejected the values of
experimenting with sex and drugs that they grew up with. They are
unapologetically resorting to snooping tactics they would have abhorred in
Can I see that diary, please?
On one level, the about-face isn't surprising. Many parents naturally
become more conservative as they grow older. The country, too, is more
temperate today than it was in the tie-dyed ^A'60s.
Plus technology - from the ubiquitous cellphone to instant messaging - has
given youths an infinite number of ways to communicate and parents an
infinite number of reasons to play I Spy.
Yet much of the change in parental attitudes also reflects the dangers of
the times, from AIDS to club drugs. Warning signals trickle out with
regularity: the exposed drinking habits of Prince Harry of Britain, the
Marin County youth who joins the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Florida teen
who crashes a private plane into a Tampa high rise.
"These parents are reading e-mails and diaries, searching rooms for drugs
and any clue that indicates their child is leading a secret life," says
Elaine Bell Kaplan, a sociologist at the University of Southern California
who conducted the study. "They are constantly questioning and rethinking
their parenting techniques. The increased scrutiny of their teens is more
out of fear for their safety than nosiness."
One mother says she hugs her son upon his return from school to smell for
marijuana or alcohol. A father regularly eavesdrops on his teen's telephone
conversations. Still other parents say monitoring personal writings is not
"I guess my son didn't realize what you look up [on the Internet] will
automatically be saved," said one mother. "I mean, it was mind boggling
what he looked at. Some of the stuff was really sick stuff. They had
pictures of the O.J. murders."
The California study included white, Black, and Latino families, with
incomes of $65,000 to $150,000 - and students of both public and private
schools. Although the sample was limited to California, and does not
indicate the habits of most American parents, observers say it indicates a
shift in attitude about what is permissible and advisable by a sizable
proportion of parents - perhaps 20 percent - as well as the direction more
adults may follow.
"There is a very definite subset of parents who know what they themselves
got away with as kids," says Furman University psychologist Paul Rasmussen,
"and feel that their children will not be so lucky as to dodge the same
In Brookline, Mass., 40-something Roger Tackeff says of parenting his two
pre-teen sons: "There is no question that we have much more control over
our children than did our parents. My mother never asked if I was finished
with my history homework ... never went to the school, and didn't know what
was going on [with us]."
St. Charles, Mo., resident Dennis O'Rando went to high school in the 1960s
and admits to being very much a child of those self-indulgent times.
"Anything you can imagine that went on, I was involved in just about all of
it," says Mr. O'Rando, whose daughter is a high school senior.
But "things we did back then you didn't die for," he says, referring to
playground scuffles that can end in gunfire these days.
For that reason, he doesn't feel guilty about occasionally searching his
daughter's room - and even admits to having recorded several of her phone
conversations in her wilder middle-school days. "If you're not aware of
what's going on around you, you're asking for trouble."
A wise watchfulness is one thing. But to psychologist Rasmussen, there is
an "epidemic of parents who are becoming over-controlling." This
micromanagement carries its own risk: that youths won't grow up to manage
themselves later in life.
The snooping approach may also face a backlash from kids who feel unfairly
held to standards and behaviors their own parents could not meet.
"Students finding out their own parents did the very acts they are now
prevented from doing compromises parental effectiveness in the long run,"
says James Weiss, a staff psychologist at Seton Hall University in South
Orange, N.J. "The other problem is that these parents are operating without
a model or a map. They are sort of shooting from the hip, not basing their
ideas on any effective models."
Chill out there, dad
If some parents are genuinely trying to chart a responsible course, others
may be overstepping the bounds of good sense.
The USC study recounts one mother who developed a "crazy mom" routine to
control her son. When he was out past her curfew at a "drug party," she got
into her car wearing pajamas, hair rollers, and slippers, stood on the lawn
and yelled to her son: "Mark, Mark, here I am."
"Parents who use humiliation as a discipline technique are often
counterproductive," says Dr. Weiss.
He counsels another technique that he says is far too underutilized in
homes across America: genuine conversation. "When we work with these kids
and parents to the point of sitting down and talking over these issues, we
often find that such basic conversations have never even happened."
Meaningful conversations, however, can be difficult to engineer. Greg and
Kathy Wait of Palo Alto, Calif., came of age in the 1960s and now have a
sophomore in high school.
"He sasses more than I ever did," she says of her son. "I never would have
told my mom to ^A'cool it.' But all his friends talk to their parents like
that. I heard one cuss out his mother when she was five minutes late
picking him up."
But Mr. Wait thinks there's also a positive element in all the bluntness,
at least minus the cussing. "One thing the kids have that's better than
what we had is the ability to speak their minds to their parents and have
us take them seriously," he says. "I simply didn't have that option."
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