My phone pinged at a rather awkward moment. It was a text message from a parent I was vaguely aware of, but I’d never met. It went something like this:
“Hiya. I understand my Eva (not their real name) and a group of girls are having a sleepover at your place tonight. Thanks for having her. By the way, what’s your address?”
This was interesting. My daughter was indeed having a sleepover, but with one friend who we knew and whose parents my wife and I were well acquainted with. I had never met Eva or her mother and I knew nothing about a “group” of kids staying the night. We weren’t prepared for this…and we definitely didn’t approve.
I had a brief panic. Was a gang of kids going to arrive at our house after school, expecting a movie, Domino’s Pizza takeaway and midnight snacks? I had to end this before it started because I wasn’t prepared to host one kid who we didn’t know and whose parents we hadn’t met, let alone kid-s plural.
I replied, politely but firmly making clear no such thing was happening. Thankfully the mother was very understanding, accepted her kid was not coming to ours and we agreed the two of them might do something in future.
Why am I telling you this story? It’s a superb example of what can happen when teens try to make their own social arrangements without involving their parents. Eva, it seems, had misunderstood something my child had said and then asked her mum to text me to confirm she could come round that very evening.
Do you know what exacerbates this kind of situation? Mobile phones. Oh yes, give a teen a mobile phone, tell them they can arrange to go the cinema with Sue and Geoff and before you know it, they’ve arranged to go firewalking in Aberdeen with Agnes, Ariana and Anna. Oh, yeah, and you’re the one that’s got to drive them there.
Yes, all right, I exaggerate. Nonetheless, a teen with a mobile phone and a desire to make their own social arrangements makes for an interesting combination.
There was another occasion when Helen had arranged to go to a café in a nearby town with a friend called Laura. Although the two friends had arranged it, my wife and the other kids’ mum had okayed their plans so everybody was aware of where the youngsters needed to be and at what time.
I went with Helen to the pre-arranged rendezvous point. I was going to leave as soon as Laura turned up, but wanted to stay around to make sure they met as planned.
It was just as well I did wait. The clock ticked and Laura was five, 15 and then 30 minutes late. Laura and her parents, meanwhile, were completely incommunicado.
After a while, quite a while, Helen eventually managed to get hold of Laura on the phone. Good news, she was on her way!
Well, it should have been good news. After that brief phone call, Laura’s phone again went incommunicado and she didn’t arrive for a further 90 minutes.
By rights, I should have scooped up my daughter and left but as we knew Laura was on her way, I didn’t think that was a responsible thing to do. Instead, I spent two hours stood in the baking hot, midday sun waiting for a kid who didn’t get the basics of punctuality (and whose parents seemed reluctant to answer the phone). Oddly, the two kids haven’t met up outside of school since.
To avoid this kind of thing happening, we have a rule in our household. A social gathering isn’t happening until my wife or I have been in touch with the other parents and confirmed the details. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sleepover, a trip to the cinema or an end of term picnic in the park, if we don’t know who is going to be there, when it’s taking place and where it is, our child is simply not participating.
It gets complicated when kids make arrangements without telling you first. You then have to work backwards, figuring out who they want to meet and who the parents are so you can confirm what’s happening. What facilitates and enables youngsters to go freelance and make arrangements without checking with you first? Yes, it’s our friend the mobile phone.
Enough slagging off mobile phones. We all know they’re a blessing and a curse. Instead, allow me to give you an update on the sleepover my daughter was supposed to be having.
It didn’t go ahead. The reason it didn’t go ahead shows exactly why parents should always be involved in making social arrangements (or at least approving any plans made). I tested positive for COVID late that afternoon so had to cancel the sleepover at very short notice.
Imagine if Eva had turned up or worse still, a bunch of kids had turned up. That would have been a nightmare scenario to have dealt with.
So where do you stand on this subject? Do you think teens and mobile phones make for a dreadful combination when they start making social arrangements? What rules do you have in place for when kids want to meet up with friends? I’d be very interested to know.