Magazine article Information Today

The Old School (Electronic) Ties

Magazine article Information Today

The Old School (Electronic) Ties

Article excerpt

W. Houston Dougharty, vice president for student affairs at Grinnell [College, Iowa], has been reminding incoming freshmen in recent years that theirs is the first generation heading off to college that will never really separate from family and high school friends--largely because of "electronic tethers" like Facebook, texting and Twitter ...

--"Goodbye, Hello," The New York Times (www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/ education/edlife/25choice-t.html)

By the time you read this, my home will officially be an "empty nest." No. 2 son, a member of George Washington University's class of 2014, will be in the District of Columbia, and I will be here in St. Pete, wondering how the heck this happened so quickly. While this is hardly an original thought, all the parents out there will understand.

We visited the school in early summer for orientation, a 3-day program for both of us, separate if not quite equal. Many of the sessions for parents focused on the process of "letting go" in one form or another: allowing your son or daughter to solve problems without feeling a need to intervene and granting your child the freedom/space to make his or her own decisions and mistakes. The "h" word was used, "helicopter," as in "helicopter parent," which, according to Word Spy, is "A parent who hovers over his or her children. Also: helicopter mother, helicopter mom, helicopter dad."

Well, the helicopter never even moved off the ground in our household. No. 2 son came out of the womb as His Own Man, has always been tightlipped about school and personal life (which he has managed successfully), and has been ready to leave home for college since he was in the 9th grade.

Other parents may have more of a problem, although few to the extent of the mother in one of my orientation sessions who actually asked a dean if the university could monitor her daughter's internet use "so she only uses it for schoolwork." I could hear jaws hitting the floor all over the conference room.

The internet (and the wireless spectrum) makes it far easier to stay in touch with far-flung college students, which is what W. Houston Dougharty was alluding to in the excerpt mentioned earlier. Those of us who went away to college Back In The Day may remember the traditional "Sunday night phone call home" (usually from a payphone--also quickly becoming a relic). We might also have called the folks on other occasions, but it was mostly when we needed more money. Then it would take a couple of days for the dead-tree check to arrive via snail mail. Now money moves electronically, but students still need more. Some things never change. And since they all have mobile devices, you're likely to hear about it sooner rather than later.

Let's Communicate

More than one university administrator stressed the importance of having a conversation about "communication" before your child leaves for school, mainly about mutual expectations regarding the frequency thereof. Is one phone call a week enough? Is one phone call every day too much? And what about email, instant messaging, Skype, and other social media?

Of course, every family and every parent and child are different, but some general rules can be useful. Check out the following guidelines:

Email: Young people usually don't use email that much, but they still use it. All students have official college email addresses, and the schools employ email as an official communications channel. …

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