Dan Tynan has been writing about technology since Steve Ballmer had hair. He is a contributing editor for Family Circle, where he writes about the intersection of parenting and technology. He also blogs about social media and privacy for IDG publications and is the co-founder of a disreputable humor blog. Tynan is the father of two smart-yet-sassy teenagers, but nothing he says should ever be construed as professional parenting advice. Follow him on Twitter @tynanwrites or at his new lifestyle blog.
The cry came from the pit of agony and despair, also sometimes known as our daughter's bedroom.
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"Mom! What's the Internet password?"
As usual it was less of a question and more of an accusation. Our 13-year-old, as angry as only a hormone-charged teen girl can be, discovered we had once again changed the pass code for the Wi-Fi router. She stormed into the kitchen where we were sitting and glared at us.
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"Do your homework." Her mother replied, serenely sipping coffee.
The teen rolled her eyes.
"No, Mom, really, what is it?
"Do your homework."
"Come on, Mom, just tell me." More plaintive. We can sense her will starting to collapse.
"Do your homework."
"Is it 'banana peel'? Is it 'Bieber2012'? Is it 'Pomegranate'?"
"Do. Your. Homework."
"What is it?"
A half hour later, homework now completed, my daughter walks back into the kitchen. You can almost see the cartoon light bulb blink on over her head.
"Wait," she said. "Is the password 'do your homework'? It is, isn't it? Oh my god I hate you."
Stomp stomp stomp -- SLAM! Followed shortly thereafter by the sound of typing and giggling.
We don't do this to our daughter and her older brother simply because it's so much fun to torment them. We do it because once they have Internet access, time stops. Nothing else happens. Socks do not get picked up. Homework goes undone. Dishes do not get cleared from the rooms where they weren't supposed to be in the first place. Left unchecked, cobwebs would form around their bodies as they sat mesmerized by flickering images on YouTube and the constant stream of inanity that is a teenager on Facebook.
As Digital Parenting blogger Beth Blecherman has noted previously, withholding technology is one of the most effective ways to guide your children's behavior, whether it's a cellphone or net access. But, make no mistake, this can also be a lot of fun. Over the years we've used a series of Wi-Fi router pass phrases like:
- No, that's not it.
- Sorry, guess again.
- I have no idea.
- Ask your father.
- Password? What password?
And so on. (To be fair, I deserve no credit for this –- it was really my wife's idea.)
Once the kids figured out the rules of this game, we had to get more sophisticated. For one thing, we quickly realized it was a total pain to constantly change the Wi-Fi passwords for every box in our house that wanted it (like the Roku, TiVo, Sonos player, laptops, tablets, etc). So we created a guest account that only the kids could use, and just changed that password.
Lately we've got a new tool in our tech parenting arsenal: A Cisco EA4500 router, which works with the company's free Connect Cloud service. Download the Connect Cloud app to your laptop or tablet, and you can see every device that's on your wireless network and cut them off one by one. Room not clean? That laptop gets booted from the network until it is. Throwing off a little too much attitude? Let's see how you like being grounded from tech for a week.
In the battle for digital supremacy, many parents feel hopelessly outmatched. But you hold the secret key; you control the horizontal and the vertical. You have the Wi-Fi password. Don't give it up without getting something good in return.
As a parent of digital kids, how do you handle these situations? Have you ever locked your kids out of the home Wi-Fi? Let us know in the comments.
This post is part of a series on the digital dilemmas of raising digital kids. We'd like to hear some of the parenting issues technology has raised for you. Please let us know in the comments, or on our Mashable Lifestyle Facebook page. You can also follow and tweet us @mashlifestyle.
Mashable composite, photo courtesy iStockphoto, LeicaFoto.
This story originally published on Mashable here.