Tech Wars: The Empress Strikes Back

A Valley mom gives new meaning to the term “parental controls.”

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    Kathleen Markel

The other day I was listening to a morning radio show where this DJ was having kids call in to share stories about their “soooo uncool” parents who aren’t tech-savvy.

One teenager was talking about how her mom always texts everything in all caps, not realizing it’s tech code for “I’m yelling at you!”

She and the DJ went on laughing condescendingly and speculating that her mom does this because her eyes are getting bad and she doesn’t know how to change the font size. This apparently was nothing short of hysterical.  

Here’s the deal: As a parent of four teenagers, I know I’ll never have the time they do to sit around and figure out all the features of my phone. I do, however, have enough working knowledge of it to be able to use it against them.

Here’s how: When my daughter with the sweet tooth starts to go overboard on the ice cream order, I pull up a picture from my photo library that immediately puts the brakes on it. It’s a pool of iridescent-purple vomit on the bathroom floor from the time she thought a triple scoop of Baskin-Robbins’ Wild ‘n Reckless sherbet with sprinkles and gummy bears in a waffle cone was a good idea.

After discovering one of my boy’s fake IDs in the laundry, I texted him several photos: (1) the fake ID, (2) a pair of scissors and (3) the result of their interaction.

In a fortuitous turn of events, my lack of “techknowledgey” has actually worked in my favor. Recently I somehow accidentally downloaded all of my kids’ contacts from the cloud into my phone. At first the acquisition of all this additional data through my unintentional “mommy hack” was annoying.

Then I stumbled upon a brilliant idea. I took some old hard-copy photos and scanned them … you know, the unflattering ones from the middle school years before they lost their baby fat? Now I have them at my fingertips for a colossal group text to their peers if they get out of line. Nobody misses curfew at my house.

As I’ve learned, you can also use technology to motivate kids to help out around the house. Remember those user-unfriendly chore charts we all had as kids hanging on the fridge? No need.

If I see dishes in the sink, I just pull out my phone and cancel the weekly allowance bank transfer for the offending teen. No discussion. No drama.

And when my son fails to take out the garbage, I don’t nag. I just text him a picture of the overflowing trash can followed by that most wondrous of all Valley teen motivators: a picture of his Coachella ticket.

Tech-venge is sweet, and by the way, it’s a dish best served “old.”