My son, Nick, is a technology whiz. If you’ve got a teenager in your house you know what I mean. These kids have grown up on the computer. Burning a disk or laying down tracks on Garageband comes as naturally as sleeping ‘til noon on Sunday. Teens are masters of digital multi-tasking. Nick can simultaneously play a computer game, chat with six “buddies” and consult his on-line math tutorial – all while rocking out to itunes. As you’ll see, his skill on the computer puts me at a distinct parental disadvantage at times.
Nick’s passion for the computer confounds me. I’m certain there’s something really wrong with it. I’m just not sure exactly what it is. To appear like I’m in control, I randomly forbid stuff just for the hell of it.
Look, I love the Internet too. Email is efficient and fun, Mapquest is a huge timesaver, and who can resist Will Ferrell’s funnyordie.com website? Still, most of what goes on inside the expensive machine on my desk is a mystery to me. You can’t blame me for feeling a little fearful. But that’s because I’m old. Like our grandparents hated rock & roll in their day, we parents today fear technology as a corrupting influence. We will never feel as comfortable with the computer as our kids do.
Sometimes Nick’s techno know-how comes in handy. It’s like having our own in-house Geek Squad. When our PC crashed last month, we decided to replace it with an iMac. Who is the resident Apple expert in our house? The fourteen year old, of course. Schools use Macs. Steve Jobs understood the value of getting consumers at the earliest age. He must have known the Jesuit saying “give me a child when he’s seven and I’ll give you the man”. Nick, who created his own website on a Mac in sixth grade, is now completely proficient. So we took him along to the Apple Store to help make our purchase.
It was a good move, because Nick could really relate to our nineteen-year-old salesperson, Jason. In fact, Nick taught Jason a few things about adding widgets to his dashboard (don’t ask). And when we got our bright, new, totally cool iMac home, Nick promptly set it up for us. Relieved and grateful, we heaped praise upon him for his impressive computer skills. Big mistake.
Unwittingly, we had confirmed Nick’s growing suspicions about us. You know, that we didn’t know everything. In fact, when it came to computers his parents didn’t know much at all. Nick liked being the computer authority in the house. He liked it a little too much.
Nick began to assert his power. He made rules about the iMac. “We will each log into our own screen name and log out when we are done,” he instructed. He set and reset our passwords so we had to check with him before we could access our email. One Saturday morning I signed on to review my checking account and found a huge blinking message on my screen “LOG OFF WHEN YOU ARE DONE”. That did it. I stomped up to his room.
“You are not the boss of me!” I yelled. Nick looked up from his book and said calmly, “Mom, the rule is you have to log off every time. That was just a reminder.” “YOU don’t get to make the rules!” I shrieked. “You are the kid! I don’t have to log off if I don’t want to and you better take that obnoxious screensaver off my computer right NOW!”
With a shrug, Nick sauntered down the stairs to the iMac and pressed a few keys. The offensive text disappeared. I glared at him and sat down in front of the computer, huffing in indignation. But, I’d shown him who was in charge hadn’t I?
Now, if only I could remember my bank account password.
“Um – Nick?”