Last night I had a somewhat heated discussion with my 13 year old daughter. When I popped upstairs at 10pm she was still up, chatting to Facebook friends on her laptop. I asked her to switch off and get to bed, it being a school night.
A few minutes later I went back to check on her. She was in bed, but still chatting away, this time on her ipod. When I told her that it was time to shut everything down and go to sleep, a somewhat heated debate took place about what time it is reasonable to expect a 13 year old to switch off. She told me that a lot of her friends are only just coming online at 10pm, and that it's the best time to talk to everyone.
I threatened to remove all her internet enabled gadgets if she didn't go to sleep, but I did leave her wondering if perhaps I was guilty of being a little over the top. I had to ask myself what my reasons were for insisting she went to sleep, and whether I was perhaps guilty of relying my own childhood memories to make such a decision.
I suppose the questions are: is she grumpy in the morning because she's stayed up chatting, is her school work suffering as a result of tiredness, does she have trouble getting out in time for school? The answer to all those questions is 'no'. In fact, she's done very well in her recent school exams, and I'm proud of her progress. She has lots of friends and seems to be well liked. By denying her the opportunity to maintain those friendships via her online networking am I putting these social networks in jeopardy? Times are different now, and just because I would have put my book down and blown out my candle before 10pm doesn't mean that she should.
I've not come to a conclusion about this, but I do remember getting really annoyed with my parents when I was a teenager for making arbitrary decisions about things, and feeling even more aggrieved that when asked for a reason, they would answer 'because I said so'. I fear I may now be guilty of treading the same path....