Mindful Cafe: Smart phones and dumb parents don’t mix

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Stephanie Willis

Protecting children from grown-up problems is hard enough. But there’s a new culprit making it even more challenging: smart electronic devices. From extramarital affairs to bank statements, secrets are exactly what children find there.

Imagine that your whole life you’ve had access to the internet and were read bedtime stories from a laptop. While sharing computers in grade school, you learned how to navigate when other students were logged on. Exploring and browsing always have been encouraged for optimal learning, and with communal electronics, there was little worry about finding inappropriate materials.

Naturally curious, kids know how to operate devices better than their parents.

What teen can resist the tempting ringing, buzzing or chirping that announces an update on an electronic device? It would be easy to shake your fingers at a child for snooping, if in fact that was obviously what they were doing upon discovering their parents’ secrets.

Kids have gone through their parents’ devices to find X-rated pictures, or read graphic sexual foreplay via text messages while a parent jumped out of the car to pick up dry cleaning.

Even worse, sometimes those naughty pictures are not of mom or dad. Affairs have been discovered by kids browsing emails, photo applications and parents’ Facebook messages.

Finding out your parents aren’t perfect is traumatizing enough for a child. Seeing that imperfection in high resolution is humiliating and disgusting.

Affairs are a worst case-scenario. Kids also uncover unnecessary gossip about family members, private arguments about finances, and parents’ texts calling their own kids insulting names.

To complicate the emotional turmoil, kids have to deal with the guilt parents can inflict for discovering their transgressions — talk about confusion for the kid.

To the kid who discovers his parent is lying about a fundamental issue, boundaries turn into a joke and privacy loses its meaning.

Imagine that something happened to you and a stranger needed to go through your phone to find an emergency contact. What would they find?

Smart electronic devices in the hands of foolish adults leave kids empty of respect. Clean up your electronic act.

Stephanie Willis is a mental health and addictions therapist with Linden Oaks at Edward and Willis Counseling & Consulting. She can be reached at swillis@williscc.com and 630-481-6463.