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Old 08-03-2006, 03:00 PM   #1
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I'm posting the whole article because the link will expire

I can't believe those parents, resorting to all of that with cell phones and being so hyperattentive and hypervigilant. This cannot be healthy at all, for parents or for the kids. I can imagine all the problems it will cause for these kids later in life. Makes me glad I didn't grow up with a cell phone, or in this generation. Absolutely nothing wrong with feeling worried and protective of your kids, but I don't think these parents don't know where the healthy line is. Apparently it's happening in colleges too- with web sites, e-mail and all that, and helicopter parents.

By Douglas Belkin, Boston Globe Staff | August 3, 2006

AMHERST, N.H. -- The mother was from Sharon, Mass., and her crying was so hysterical that Ken Kornreich thought she might pass out. Tears, runny nose, heaving sobs. The works. Both arms were wrapped around a blue pillar when the fight went out of her body and she slowly, theatrically, slumped to the floor.

``She said she couldn't leave her baby," Kornreich said. ``She wouldn't abandon her. I looked at her husband and he just sort of shrugged."

The tragic setting for this wrenching good-bye? Hospital ward, adoption center, war zone? None of the above. It was a summer camp. Seven weeks of swimming, sing-alongs, and s'mores.

A melodramatic good-bye? Perhaps. Unusual? No longer.

Levels of separation anxiety between parents and their camp-bound children have reached epic heights this summer, according to camping experts around the country. The result: a new phenomenon of contraband cellphones, secret hand signals, and a budding industry of camp psychologists employed to help ease the transition -- for the parents.

``She finally left," Kornreich said of the tear-stained mother. ``But we had to talk to her for a while before she could pull herself off the floor."

Stories of helicopter parents -- so called because they hover ever so close to their children -- abound among baby boomers. Competitive, overbearing, and unwilling to let go, they have changed the flavor of kindergarten enrollment, Little League cheering sections, and college admissions. Now, 140 years after the first privileged boys trekked out of grimy Northeastern cities and into the woods for a season of fresh air and exercise, those parents are redefining the way summer camps are run, too.

At the center of all this tension: the cutting of the ``digital umbilical," a term coined by child psychologist Christopher Thurber in a paper for the American Camping Association last year.

Parents are used to communicating with their kids on their cellphones or through text messages or e-mail several times a day, Thurber said. But central to most summer camps is the idea of creating an enclosed community separate from the outside world. Translation: no phones, no text messaging, no instant anything.

``All of a sudden, the parents have to go cold turkey," Thurber said. ``It's digital detox."

At Camp Young Judaea, where Kornreich and his wife, Marcy, have been fixtures as campers, counselors, and now directors for 30 years, the only contact children have with their parents is through the written word -- one-way e-mails from parents to children, or old-fashioned handwritten letters.

``This is a place for kids to be kids, to not have to worry about their parents," said Ken Kornreich. ``If they're talking to Mom and Dad every day, that's not going to happen."

Once upon a time, that was mutually acceptable. Parents enjoyed some peace and quiet. Children got to spread their wings away from home in a safe place and build some self-reliance.

But five years ago, as cellphones became ubiquitous among kids, things started to change. And in the last couple of years, the phenomenon has gotten conspicuously worse, said Bette Bussel, executive director of the American Camp Association of New England. This is the first generation to be raised in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the priest abuse scandal, Bussel said. Insecurity and distrust have pervaded even the safest environments.

What 20 years ago would have been considered overbearing for parents is now perceived as cautious and pragmatic.


Consider the case of Felicity Kolnik. The first summer she dropped off her son Jonathan, then 11, at Young Judaea, she called the counselor the next day to see how he was -- and then once a week for the rest of the summer.

``It was my anxiety, not his," said Kolnik, of Newton. ``I just couldn't stop worrying."

Jonathan's counselor would ask him how he was feeling and relay the answer to his mom. It was always the same: ``Tell her her son is extremely happy and she should stop calling," he would say.

It took three summers, but, finally, she stopped calling.

There have always been parents like Kolnik, experts say. Now there are just more of them.

``The latest twist I've seen are dummy cellphones," said Bob Ditter, a Boston-based child and family therapist who has traveled to about 500 summer camps since 1982 to coach counselors. In the last year or two, in camps that ban cellphones, parents have started to pack not one but two in their children's trunks. One is strategically placed where the counselor will find it. The strategy: Counselor s will stop looking for the real phone when they've confiscated the dummy.

``It speaks to the desperation of the parents," Ditter said.

The flip side is that children are not developing their own coping skills, said Ethan Schafer, a child psychologist who helps train camp counselors across the Midwest.

``We have these summer camps that have been around for 100 years and all of a sudden you have these parents that think their 11-year-old can't be away from home for three weeks," Schafer said. ``I tell the counselors they are on the front lines, stopping the wuss-ification of America's youth."

The ingenuity of desperate parents has become the stuff of legend in camp circles. Parents pack cellphones into Tampax boxes, soccer balls, and packages of underwear. They decapitate stuffed animals, pull out the stuffing and cram contraband candy inside before sewing the head back on.

``It alleviates the guilt a lot of parents feel," Bussel said.


Under pressure to bridge the digital divide, a lot of camps started posting photos on their websites a few years ago. But even this has created its own set of problems. To take advantage of that loophole, parents have instructed their kids to flash secret hand signals for the cameras to let them know if everything is OK -- or if they need rescuing, said Thurber.

If a picture of a camper is posted and he or she is frowning, or standing off alone, or wearing the same shirt for a couple of days in a row, it's likely to elicit a call from a concerned parent, Bussel said.

The half-dozen senior counselors at Young Judaea typically spend a combined five or six hours a day on the phone, reassuring parents that their child is fine.

The impact goes both ways, said Marcy Kornreich. A few years ago she started noticing that at the beginning of the summer, when the youngest campers had free time to play, they didn't know what to do.

``Some of them have never had an unstructured hour to themselves," she said. ``The other kids had to show them how to play."

The definition of play, however, has narrowed. Pranks, for instance, are largely a thing of the past. Everything that could be considered a practical joke has to be approved by Ken Kornreich. Putting a kid's hands in water while he sleeps (to induce him to wet his bed) -- gone. Punishment by standing under a light at night to get eaten by mosquitoes? Forget it. Panty raids? Out of the question.

Counselors can't even apply sunscreen to campers or hug them for fear of crossing a line, he said.

But not everything has changed. The best part of summer camp from the kids' perspective has largely remained the same -- escape from parental demands.

``It's great just not having anybody telling you what to do for a month," said Jonathan Kolnik, Felicity's son. ``It's kind of a relief."
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Old 08-03-2006, 03:10 PM   #2
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Interesting.
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Old 08-03-2006, 03:44 PM   #3
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A totally unrelated anecdote: I visited my family in the Bay Area earlier this year. One of the wee nephews plays football/soccer and he wanted his European (and footy-fanatical) aunty to see how good he was (a matter of debate but he’s a nephew so in my book he’s the next Zizou). Consequently I went with him and his parents to their league game. I’ve never seen anything bloody like it. The behaviour of the strange entities that I believe you all ‘soccer moms’ (and a few ‘dads’ as well) astounded me. At one point a pint-sized striker, who’d obviously seen a few professional games, tried to head the ball and was immediate told off by the coach, his mom, and two completely unrelated parents who apparently thought that he was setting a poor – and potentially brain-death-inducing – example for his fellow 10-year-olds. For the love of all things holy, it’s supposed to be a joyful and beautiful game that empowers children and teaches them the value of fair play.
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Old 08-03-2006, 03:57 PM   #4
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wow, and then I think of my own childhood...going to boarding school in 2nd grade (age 6) and not seeing my parents for 6 months at a time. They were in a jungle somewhere, available only by SSB radio in case of emergency. Letters every 2 months if we were lucky.

so yeah...I'm ummm...real sympathetic .
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Old 08-03-2006, 03:59 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by silja
A totally unrelated anecdote: I visited my family in the Bay Area earlier this year. One of the wee nephews plays football/soccer and he wanted his European (and footy-fanatical) aunty to see how good he was (a matter of debate but he’s a nephew so in my book he’s the next Zizou). Consequently I went with him and his parents to their league game. I’ve never seen anything bloody like it. The behaviour of the strange entities that I believe you all ‘soccer moms’ (and a few ‘dads’ as well) astounded me. At one point a pint-sized striker, who’d obviously seen a few professional games, tried to head the ball and was immediate told off by the coach, his mom, and two completely unrelated parents who apparently thought that he was setting a poor – and potentially brain-death-inducing – example for his fellow 10-year-olds. For the love of all things holy, it’s supposed to be a joyful and beautiful game that empowers children and teaches them the value of fair play.
well, there's a flip side to that - back in the day, one of my old teacher's son had died from heading a soccer ball (i think he was the third person ever or something in that range), and those things make the news

i do think parents are too overbearing at some points - but i had to fight for years to finally get a cell phone! - especially when it comes to letting the kid out of their sight - i have friends that are down the street, and i cant go over to hang out if their parents arent home - im 100 yards from home for crying out loud! what could possibly happen?
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Old 08-03-2006, 04:10 PM   #6
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Parents these days can be crazy! I've been a lifelong gymnast and this past school year I did a marketing internship at the gymnastics club I've always gone to. With the younger kids who aren't good (3-11), their classes always start with a group warmup with some kid music, where they all stretch and jump around. One day this Barbie doll mom comes trailing in 15 minutes late and a little girl wanders in the gym to find her class. I hear the mom say "well, Maddie just doesn't like warm-ups so I figure, I'm not going to make her, we just come late." I was like

I want to say "Ma'am do you have ANY idea how damaging that is? Not only is your daughter in no way physically prepared to do gymnastics, that's a horrible lesson to be teaching your child." The warm-up is the most important part of gymnastics. There's too much flexibility and strength involved and it's just not safe for parents to tell their kids it's OK to skip warm-up. That's like telling a kid a football camp it's OK not to drink any water if he doesn't want to.

And that was just one rather minor example of these parents getting involved way over their heads.


My parents were so cool. I did whatever I wanted whenever I wanted with whomever I wanted as long as I told them where I was going and when I was coming home. It was my time and my money and they were OK with that.

I've never owned a cell phone and my mom doesn't either. My dad has one only for work correspondence.
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Old 08-03-2006, 04:14 PM   #7
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I think kids here start going out a bit earlier than in the US (usually around 16-17) and I've seen parents forming groups to watch over and protect their kids. It sound like a good idea but when you think about the fact that it's during those years that you (well, probably not you, but rather we) get the first crucial understanding of love and romance it doesn’t strike me as a stellar plan. I’d have been mortified if my mother had been around to inspect who I was holding hands with under the table. How long are you going to insist that you have a say in the lives of your children. Surely, even teenagers have a right to a private life.

Quote:
Originally posted by phillyfan26
well, there's a flip side to that - back in the day, one of my old teacher's son had died from heading a soccer ball (i think he was the third person ever or something in that range), and those things make the news
I’m not trying to trivialise your teacher’s loss (and yours one must assume) but there is naught but anecdotal evidence to support a connection between brain damage (let alone fatal incidents) and heading balls. FIFA, UEFA and numerous national FA’s have been trying to ferret out evidence for years – so far with a singular lack of success. Yes, it probably is the single most dangerous sport outside organised fighting, but head injuries are far from common outside the professional leagues and usually arise due to player collisions rather that ball handling.
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Old 08-03-2006, 04:18 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by silja
I think kids here start going out a bit earlier than in the US (usually around 16-17) and I've seen parents forming groups to watch over and protect their kids. It sound like a good idea but when you think about the fact that it's during those years that you (well, probably not you, but rather we) get the first crucial understanding of love and romance it doesn’t strike me as a stellar plan. I’d have been mortified if my mother had been around to inspect who I was holding hands with under the table. How long are you going to insist that you have a say in the lives of your children. Surely, even teenagers have a right to a private life.



I’m not trying to trivialise your teacher’s loss (and yours one must assume) but there is naught but anecdotal evidence to support a connection between brain damage (let alone fatal incidents) and heading balls. FIFA, UEFA and numerous national FA’s have been trying to ferret out evidence for years – so far with a singular lack of success. Yes, it probably is the single most dangerous sport outside organised fighting, but head injuries are far from common outside the professional leagues and usually arise due to player collisions rather that ball handling.
I'd say kids go out even earlier here. I'm a teen, and I'd put the age at 14-15.

I know you're not. I'm just saying all a parent needs to hear is the one instance of that, and they are against heading a ball for good. It's a shame. My teacher still enjoyed soccer after that. Other parents should too.
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Old 08-03-2006, 04:25 PM   #9
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I think the whole Sept 11th thing might be dubious too, I don't know. I think these parents would be like that regardless of that or any other event. I think it stems from issues they have rather than any outside force. I would think they would be completely embassassed by their conduct-hiding cell phones and calling about the way their kids look in online photos and all the other stuff. I can't imagine any psychologist wouldn't tell them how much their conduct is really harming their kids, now and in the future.

I always thought my mother was an overprotective nervous nelly type, but next to these people she looks like she didn't even give a damn.
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Old 08-03-2006, 04:34 PM   #10
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I wonder if it isn't a question of wanting their children to succeed (and therefore the parents as well) no matter what. I've heard the term 'curling parents' (after the peculiar winter Olympics discipline that looks a bit like petanque/bocce on ice) i.e. parents that want to sweep away all obstacles from their children’s path.
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Old 08-03-2006, 04:37 PM   #11
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I wonder if it isn't a question of wanting their children to succeed (and therefore the parents as well) no matter what
I think that's a big part of it. What good is "success" if you are emotionally and psychologically messed up, for lack of a better term? I wish parents who are like that would think about what they are doing to their kids. Success should also be measured by level of mental and emotional well being and health.
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Old 08-03-2006, 05:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
I think that's a big part of it. What good is "success" if you are emotionally and psychologically messed up, for lack of a better term? I wish parents who are like that would think about what they are doing to their kids. Success should also be measured by level of mental and emotional well being and health.
Unfortunately, many parents measure "success" one way: income potential. Be it athletic prowess or academic achievement, the goal for many parents is a child who earns $$$.

I actually heard a father want to push his child into kindergarden (instead of keeping them in preschool) because the child would "miss a year of income".

Watch the parents at the sports practices, the music lessons, etc. You will see everything from parents using these activities as babysitters (complete disengagement) to parents who actively manipulate the settings to push their children forward (over engagement).
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Old 08-03-2006, 05:25 PM   #13
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Unfortunately, many parents measure "success" one way: income potential. Be it athletic prowess or academic achievement, the goal for many parents is a child who earns $$$.


totally true.

where i'm from, parents compete with each other through their children, it's not "my child is better than your child" but "i'm a better parent than you are." and what's a universal yardstick by which to measure parenting success in a society obsessed with status and money?

as you've said, athletic prowess, musical prowess, academic achievement, acceptance into a top-tier school, etc. all of which are seen as good indicators of future potential income.
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Old 08-03-2006, 07:18 PM   #14
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This reminds me of the same kind of parents who did hardcore overnight toy store lineups in the dead of winter when there was an Elmo shortage at Christmas a few years back.

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Old 08-04-2006, 02:09 AM   #15
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This kind of makes me feel a bit nauseous. Makes me think about my divorce a lot too, because my Ex and I did not see eye to eye on parenting. My Ex being completely materialistic having to keep up with the Joneses and have every new and better gadget and electronic item that hit the market for our household and thinking nothing of showering our son with the same. I was the opposite. Not to mention, I didn't understand why a 7 year old needed a pager or why did we need 3 computers in the house when we could all share one and use the money on something else more worthwhile like spending time together as a family, communicating and interacting THE OLD FASHIONED WAY!
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