As a mom of two teenagers, I’ll admit I have been a bit smug that my kids don’t text – my 15-year-old son because it isn’t his thing and my 14-year-old daughter because my husband and I won’t provide her phone with texting capabilities. Then we gave her a webcam. While I had visions of her secretly placing weird videos on YouTube, I felt safe because her computer is just off the kitchen in our home office space.
I didn’t realize the real danger.
My daughter and her friends use Skype to hang out virtually together. Sometimes this means staying connected while they silently do their own activities. I can hear not only my daughter’s typing, but also the video game her friend is playing. Sometimes they will check in with each other, saying “Are you still there?”
I soon realized this also meant my daughter’s friends and their families could hear us. I began to rethink how I behave in the privacy of my own kitchen. As a dog owner for most of my life, I regularly talk to my dogs while feeding them. Now I could imagine that being broadcast into my daughter’s friends’ homes. What about conversations with my husband about finances or when I had to nag my son about cleaning up the dog mess in the backyard? Who knows what other conversations were broadcast?
Could I be walking around in my pajamas with a cup of tea for all her friends to see? The world is a stage they say and now, thanks to my daughter’s webcam, so is my kitchen/home office.
Should I rethink the central location of my daughter’s computer? Hide her up in her room, safely tucked away from the rest of the family? I don’t like that option because sadly, my daughter spends much of her time at her computer. We would rarely see her and know less about what is going on in her life.
As I write this she is Skyping (is that a verb? My daughter’s friend, LaMar, says yes. It’s nice to have the input.). With the computer located here, I have a window into my daughter’s world. It’s just like having her friends here, except I don’t have to carpool back and forth.
So what is the answer to the lack of privacy with this new technology? Maybe I could find one of those old “On Air” signs that light up. When my daughter is connected with her friends, the family would at least know we are “on.”
Merry Mayer is a freelance writer and part-time teacher living in Chicago with her husband and two kids.