MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on March 2nd, 2015, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 16, Connection Lost

Claire Uses the Internet for Everything

The Framework
Tonight Claire is out of town on business, but thanks to the Internet she’s staying on top of things at home: She buys a last minute birthday gift for Mitch from She helps Alex proof her college essay. And she exchanges text messages with Phil while looking at Luke’s new Mohawk on FaceTime.

But perhaps nothing reflects the “modern” in Modern Family better than the way Claire responds when Haley goes missing.
Claire (on cellphone): I can’t get in-touch with Haley. I haven’t talked to her since we got in that fight. She around?
Phil: I think she slept at a friend’s house.
Claire: What friend?
Phil: Umm … not a normal name. Starts with a vowel. Possibly foreign.
Claire: Maybe Alex knows. Is she home?
Phil: Nope. I haven’t seen her for hours.
Claire (Calling Alex on FaceTime): Hi, honey … Can you do me a favor and call your sister? If she’s screening, I’m not making the cut.
Alex: Why don’t you just snoop on her Facebook page with your fake profile?
Claire: I don’t have a fake profile.
Alex: Mom, save it. Brody Kendall just logged in.
Claire (gasping as she sees Haley’s “married” Facebook status): Oh, my God! Please tell me this is some kind of a mistake!

Later there’s this.
Claire: Do you have Haley’s iCloud password?
Alex: Yeah, she gave it to me in a little envelope with her diary key and a list of things she’s most afraid of.
Claire (sighing): Maybe we could guess it …
Phil (popping up on Claire’s screen): Claire, you accidentally hung up on me.
Claire: Yeah, well, honey, you know me and computers.
Alex: Mom is trying to guess Haley’s iCloud password, which, personally, I think is an invasion of her privacy.
Phil: Try “password.”
Claire (after typing it in): I’m kind of glad that didn’t work.
Alex: Well, I think I remember telling her to use something that people wouldn’t know about her – like her favorite literary character.
Claire: I’m in.
Alex: What?! What was it?
Claire: Snoopy.
Alex: Wow. And that could be your new nickname.
Instantly, Claire clicks “find my phone” in Haley’s account.
Claire: Oh, no! She’s in Vegas!
Phil: Are you serious?!
Claire: Hang on. I’m zooming in. Hold on. Hold on. Oh, God! Honey, she’s at a wedding chapel … Who could she be marrying?

And at the end of the episode, after Haley is located, there’s this.
Claire: So you didn’t get married.
Haley: Married? Why would I get married?
Claire: Because you changed your Facebook status to “married,” and then we tracked your cellphone to a wedding chapel in Vegas.
Haley: Wow! First of all, it’s called privacy. Google it. Second, I married a Cronut.
Claire: What?

Haley: Last week, my friend and I went to get Cronuts, and I said they were so amazing I wanted to marry one. So I posted it on Facebook as a joke. Then I accidentally left my phone in Andy’s car – which he drove to a friend’s wedding in Vegas…

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
While tonight’s episode felt a bit like an Apple infomercial starring Claire, it also reflects the way we live now: online. Like Claire, many of us are using smartphones, computers, and tablets to manage our family lives and monitor our kids.

Online safety experts advise us parents to stay on top of things. Because the online hazards are real. But as we saw with Claire tonight – even when you have all of the latest gadgets and apps at your fingertips – it’s really easy not to know what’s going on. This is especially true if you have a savvy, creative teen intent on you not finding out.

In fact, most kids can find ways to get around our investigative methods. After all, it’s easy for a teen to erase a browser history or clear certain sites they’ve been to and keep others.

Yes, there are software programs designed to help us parents keep and eye on our kids’ online activity. Some will even send an alert to us if language or photos in our teen’s networking activities suggest there might be trouble. But these can give us a false sense of security. Just Google “bypass internet filters” and you’ll see what I mean.

Haley: How did you get onto my Facebook page? I unfriended you.
Alex: She’s Brody Kendall.
Haley: Oh, my God! Gross! I’ve been playing Candy Crush with my mother. How did you track my phone?
Claire: I don’t think that really matters. And there’s a perfectly reasona … (pretends their connection is being lost):
Haley: Oh cut it out. I can see people walking behind you.

Trying to outsmart a teen when it comes to technology is usually futile. And surprise snooping on their phone or Facebook page like Claire did tonight doesn’t usually turn out well either. It’s a lot like looking in their book bag or searching their bedroom behind their back. You may find something critical to their safety, but this kind of snooping destroys trust. (For more on how to snoop when you feel that you must, click here.)

What’s a Mom to Do
Our best hope of protecting our teens from the online hazards we’re most concerned about are the tried and true parenting strategies we use to protect them from other hazards. The same three, simple rules (Be safe. Be respectful. Be in contact.) we use for other areas of their lives work online too. Each has a purpose that’s easy for us to explain and for our teens to understand.

Be safe online. Most teens underestimate bad consequences online – just as they do in the real world. Be safe online is about helping our teens stay away from things on the internet that could hurt them – especially cyber-bullying, sexual predators, and pornography which are three of the biggest online safety risks to teens. (For more on helping your teen stay safe online, click here.)

Be respectful online. Teens may be anonymous or disguised online which may make them more likely to make rude or cruel comments or to share inappropriate pictures of others. It might also lead to them sharing pictures of themselves they later regret.

Be respectful online is about helping our teens protect their online reputation.
If they wouldn’t say it, show it, or do it in person, they shouldn’t do it online.
Teens need to know there are no take-backs on the internet. Even after they delete what they say or do, it can usually be retrieved. (For more on how teens can protect their online reputation click here.)

Be in contact about online activity. There are things in our teens’ online world they’d rather we not know about because they fear that we’ll interfere with their fun. Just like in the real world. So be in contact about online activity is about having regular conversations with our teens about where they’re going and what they’re doing online. And it’s about our teens letting us know right away if something unexpected or threatening happens so that we can help them plan how to deal with it.

Today’s technology makes information available in ways that our parents could never have imagined. But as Claire learned tonight, it doesn’t necessarily make us moms better at monitoring or managing problems. After all, without the Internet that let Claire see Haley’s Facebook status and track her phone to Vegas, she’d have probably had Phil check Haley’s room first thing – where he’d have immediately found her sound asleep.

Your Parenting Experiences
Are you friends with your teen on Facebook? Do you use a fake profile like Claire did? If you saw something that concerned you on their page, how would you address it?

Sources and Resources: “Should You Monitor Your Teen’s Online Activity” and “Four Dangers on the Internet” on WebMD; “Protecting Your Online Identity and Reputation” on KidsHealth

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