‘Dear Aunty’ are satirical, honest, sometimes serious & comical responses to fan questions written to author Kartanya Martinez. Kartanya's 'alter ego' is often naughty but is always watching you with a keen eye.
Recently travelling on a local train here in Melbourne, Australia, I couldn’t help but notice as I was searching for a seat to place my ample ‘Aunty’ arse, that not one person took the time to look up and take note of who was coming to sit alongside them. Suddenly it dawned on me that ‘Crime Stoppers’ is a waste of money! How in the hell can we appeal to the public about whether they ‘saw anything’, when all they can fucking see is their mobile phone screen! Yes, I have dropped the ‘f-bomb’, a more subtle expression to be using rather than a grizzly account of how I really feel which involves copious numbers of two-legged sheep being ‘cryo packed’ as fresh Aussie lamb roasts for Tom Cruise himself.
We have seen on the television, news items over and over again showing the masses walking with their headphones in, aimlessly wandering, oblivious to everything as well as everyone around them. Stepping out in front of cars, walking across pedestrian crossings not even looking out for one another. Yet again, an observation last week when I dared to partake in an old school activity; window shopping! My mobile phone was switched off and buried deep in my handbag. As I ambled along the sidewalk, stopping casually to look at shop window displays, walking against the flock, stopping to look both ways as I came to the zebra crossing only to be nudged by a person behind me whose face was buried in their phone, yet had the audacity to utter “...move it fatso”, which those same lips uttered a hasty apology when I turned and glared at them with my dark brown piercing eyes, but then again, it could have been that they looked up long enough to see the traditional ta moko on my chin that scared them into their rueful “...shit sorry”. I lost count of the number of times a zombie on their phone ‘tut-tutted’ me pausing to look in a shop window, and lo and behold were forced to look up from their phone and walk around me, all the while tutting and looking at me as if I was a brain dead pest out to disrupt society.
My train ride and window shopping experience brought me to the obvious thoughts of our children. We live in a world consumed by technology, yet, at the same time we are trying to parent our children and get them through the fearful young years, the tumultuous teen years, safely into adulthood. Children, just as adults, walking aimlessly engrossed in their phones, children with earphones embedded, unaware of society’s sounds and people surrounding them. I was a music-loving teen once too; Bob Marley, Metallica, Alice Cooper, Whitesnake oh how I loved them all, playing loudly, and yes guilty as hell when the all amazing Walkman came out it travelled everywhere with me. On the train to school, later to work. I could listen to my music whilst I looked out the window and stare at the man in the business suit three seats in front of me picking his nose unashamedly. There is a small difference, though; I grew up in a time where community still looked out for one another. I grew in a time where the harsh realities of life and the sometimes cruel sadistic predators of society were not shielded from me. I knew to always keep my wits about me, and when I stepped off of that train, that Walkman was turned off and I paid hard attention.
We live in a world that tends to shield our children in this new millennium from the oft-horrific nasties in this world, however, rightly so, we are horrified when we lose yet another of our precious gifts to the universe, our children, at the hands of such monsters. This is a harsh statement I have made, but it is a harsh reality and even more harshly real is the fact that a majority of adults and children have their faces glued to their phones and could help ‘Crime Stoppers’ identify spam but not who possibly made off with little Johnny who was sitting next to them.
“MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO”
Parenting in this age of technology is difficult, I get that. I remember in my teens the worst my parents had to worry about was me being a right royal pain in the arse whining for a black bomber jacket with the white striping up the sleeves and a pair of white Adidas sneakers with the two blue stripes along the side. Now our teens are going bonkers if they don’t have the latest mobile phone, unending Wi-Fi, snap chat, Facebook, Instagram and all their ‘homies’ calling them on this wondrous piece of technology. Their tantrums if they are minus any of this are hostile, violent and downright degrading not only to their own intelligence but also to the poor parent having to endure the outrage. Brutal reality time; if we were to ask ourselves how we behave day in day out with our phones and what happens if all of a sudden we cannot get the internet or Wi-Fi ‘hotspot’ what are our reactions ? How many parents out there have the phone in one hand and stirring tonight's stew with the other? Let’s not kid ourselves here, a train ride and window shopping gave me adequate statistics to answer these questions for many. As parents we can talk a lot of words to our children; reality is, they learn by example! Especially when they hit their teens they are like a tornado spewing forth a whole heap of air when you preach at them yet you are doing the exact same thing you are ‘growling’ them about. Dead and gone are the days the response ‘... do as I say not as I do’ or ‘...I’m the adult’ were enough to suffice and end any adolescent storm.
WEATHERING THE STORM | AUNTY’S TIPS FOR HANDLING YOUR TEEN & MOBILE PHONES
Now, due to the fact there was no such thing as a mobile phone when Aunty & Uncle were a bit younger, I ended up with 6 children; all of whom are now adults, bar the youngest son who is still only 13 years old. All the children in our house were not permitted mobile phones until they began high school. This rule became not unlike a ritual of affliction, a rite of passage, an obligatory ‘gift from Santa’ at the end of their primary school year, readying them for their leap into new expectations at the commencement of high school. In our home, having a phone or social media accounts is spoken about as being a huge responsibility.
During the developmental years, being the primary years of my children's lives I had already paved a solid foundation of communication, expectations, and our family motto;
“...Love, Respect, Dignity, Honesty & Loyalty To Self & Others Always...”
Each passing birthday, each child was given a little more independence, but along with that came the onus of expectations of behaviour. This was no different when they excitedly unwrapped their brand new mobile phone at Christmas. Along with the phone, came a firm set of rules that were non-negotiable; they were all neatly packaged as responsibility, safety & freedom. These rules were:
THIS IS NOT THE LATEST MODEL PHONE ~ IT’S A BUDGET CHEAP PHONE
My children weren’t bought the latest phone. They were bought the average budget phone. No, I am not talking about the dinky ancient $20 deal, rather the close to the latest model in technology averaging $99 to $120 pre-paid phone. I wanted them to be able to interact on the same levels as their peers would have been, however, I wanted to also instill the need for “this is a great place to start”, if you want to improve on this model by your birthday or the following Christmas, then they had to earn it. To earn the ‘level-up’, they had to acquire the best to their ability grades, continue their chores as team players in our household and follow the rules that come with the phone as well as adhering to our family motto and expectations.
Independence. If You Want Something You Must Work For It. Responsibility To Self & Family
CREDIT WILL ONLY BE TOPPED UP ONCE A MONTH
Along with the supply of credit came the onus of completing homework and family responsibilities and chores. If they failed to maintain these responsibilities for that given month, then there would be no credit put on the phone until things had improved the following month. This also worked well with any issues that may have arisen with behaviour. But, children are children, ups and downs in behaviour are a given as part of their development. Thus, the credit would only be withheld for behaviour if the problem was against our family motto of love, respect, dignity, loyalty, and honesty to self and others. Also, if they ran out of data/credit before the month was up, there was no hooking into the family Wi-Fi nor top up before the month was through. They just had to wait for the following month. There are so many great pre-paid plans to choose from and the right plan can see your child through the month with calls and data to spare. They understand how these things work, and will feel rich when using it.
Budgeting. Responsibility To Self & Family. Social & Behavioural Expectations. Enhances communication between child & parent especially on schoolyard issues.
PHONES WILL BE HANDED TO ME BY 8PM EVERY EVENING SWITCHED OFF
Children through their teenage years are inundated with sensory overload. Whether its school, television, game consoles, internet or phone. This combined with the natural physical difficulties faced with sleep during their developmental teenage years causes mental and physical stress. Trouble sleeping, mood swings and an addiction to being 'switched on' all the time. It’s not unlike a dependence on amphetamines, alas, this time, its technology. They need to switch off! Phones handed to me by 8pm was the sign of coming into the lounge room as a family, having some together time, then based on the individual bedtimes, they would join me for a warm milk at the kitchen table, some one on one with a wind down before saying goodnight and going to bed.This rule applies to the adults in our house. Yes, even me and Uncle stay off of our phones during this time. We turn them down low, even advise our closest friends and family that calls and texts will not be answered between 8pm & 10pm. The only break from this rule was if there were some diabolical life and death event then this would be signalled by a call, let it ring once then hang up and call straight back. After a while, extended family and friends came to not calling/messaging during these times at all. As a family, we decided any call made to us after 10pm would automatically be understood as life threatening emergency, after all, Uncle and I need some ‘family’ time too.
Family Time. Winding-Down. Setting The Example
We have always set the foundations and tone for communicating with one another in our home, particularly emphasising the importance of communication with one another at the beginning of high school and the hormonal teenage years. As a parent, I made an effort not to sweat the small stuff, and the children made the effort to talk about the small stuff . Sounds silly to some, but you can find out so much more about what is happening in your child’s world by listening to the small stuff and hearing the big stuff that is being left out of the conversation. The flip-side of this joint communication is your responsibility as a parent to sit your child/children down and communicate to them the nasty side of having a phone. The absolute importance of not sharing their number on social media and the internet attached to the phone. Be honest! The internet is not a safe place and you must tell them why! The line used in our home was:
“... predators are lurking, they think many parents do not care and that you hate your parents, they bank on it. You’re a smart kid, we love one another, be open, and yes I will check your phone once a week. Not because I do not trust you, but because I do not trust others out there that could possibly hurt you in the most horrific ways, lure you away and kill you. If this was to happen I would cry forever...”
Not only is this statement harsh, it is true, it works with teens because all parents know they run on emotion. The example of honesty and openness starts with you, the parent; if they ask you what sort of horrific things predators can do — TELL THEM! A reality that parent’s need to face up to is they are doing more harm than good to shield a child from the brutality of this planet than to educate them how to be smart and survive within it. The age of innocence has been gone for a long time! It is a luxury that cannot be afforded to our children far beyond 8 years of age; horrible to acknowledge, dangerous to not accept as the truth.
This communication should always include the fact that everything they put on the net leaves a digital footprint that can be seen by anyone regardless of their privacy settings. The internet is not a private place and the more that is drummed into them the better. Even sitting down googling their name along with perhaps the word selfie, and showing them that a link to their profile anywhere will come up and whatever they posted will be there for all to see regardless.
The worst nightmare for any teenager is punishment. It’s like the Sound Of Music being recorded over the top of the 1989 AFL Grand Final! (Uncle is still pissed at me over that one). Building rapport with my children over their entire existence, they always knew what to expect when they stepped on my toes. Even though most times I will use humour to get a point across or as a reminder of what is expected, as my 13-year-old son recently found out when I have to ask half a dozen times for the dishes to be done and his face is buried in his phone, I will run the sink full of water, grab the phone out of his hands whilst stating that his phone is going to help do the dishes; only to walk past the still running water and toss the phone into the water and keep walking. Yes, the son followed his phone, absolutely devastated to see it take a swim. He looked at me agog stuttering, “that’s my phone” to which I responded,
“That was my phone, in my name, I giveth I can taketh away”. There was no argument, no yelling, no screaming. For me to take such a measure in this circumstance is expected by my children. After broodily finishing the dishes, the son came and apologised and we had a giggle. But ultimately, he knew if he broke the rules beyond the small stuff and expectations the phone would go. And there lies the absolute paramount consequence for breaking the rules outside of the credit rules to the point of exasperation.
In our house, the phone will be destroyed and they will have to work on adjusting their maturity level to show me that they are responsible enough to try again to be an owner of a phone. First time every time! I am not saying that is the length you have to go to, rather that I am not one to banter about in words, fueling anger and emotion between parent and child, remember my children have had a lifetime with me, they know how I like to get things done, just as I know and understand them individually; what works for one, will not work for all. However, the ethos is the same! Whilst laying your foundations for your teen to have a mobile phone set down and map out the rules together! Make your rules work around your morals and principles, set out the punishment for breaking these rules and if the time ever comes, don’t muck around — STICK TO IT & ENFORCE THEM!
The rules are there for their safety. The rules are there to give them a platform to build independence and responsibility. In laying this foundation, I very rarely had to play the sleuth, because my children ended up confessing willingly without prompting. Never ever, were they chastised for their honesty. It’s the worst thing you can do, is to tell your children off when they come to you with open communication and honesty; it's everything you ever wanted, don’t blow it.
Ultimately, there is nothing we can do about the technological world we live in! What we can do about it where our children are concerned, comes down to these simple things:
TRUST ~ EXPECTATION ~ COMMUNICATION ~ LEADING BY EXAMPLE
© Kartanya Martinez (Dear Aunty)
‘Dear Aunty’ are blogs based on answers to 'Dear Aunty' fan questions written by author Kartanya Martinez