Saudi Arabia: A Controversial Aspect of Parenting



It is difficult to be a parent and even more so of a “tween” or teenager with all of today’s modern technology.  What is a child doing on their computer?  After all, a lot of kids these days have their own computer.  In Saudi the majority of tweens and teens have their own mobile phones.  Who are they talking to?  With whom are they texting or sending pictures?

Should a parent “snoop” and not only look at a child’s computer or mobile phone but should the room be searched as well?  Is there more pressure in the West from social media that requires closer monitoring by a parent as compared to the Eastern world, such as Saudi Arabia?

When can a parent say with the utmost confidence and surety that “my child is old enough to make decisions with appropriate maturity and judgment?”

My niece, who is the mother of a tween boy and even younger daughter, was recently interviewed by the local news station in her area on this topic.  She is candid and forthright on her views.  What is your view?




15 Responses

  1. My mother’s philosophy was to snoop but give the impression of trust. She must have been pretty good at it because I didn’t know this until I was an adult. Then again, I had nothing to hide either.

    I think this is an important question because nowadays a parent can be held responsible criminally for an underage child’s actions. That alone is enough to make me want to keep tabs. Having said that, in our house there are no private computers…If my daughter needs to use one she can use mine which is available or she can use the computer lab at her school. She is almost twelve and doesn’t have a phone. She is pretty ticked about it, but I don’t think she has a need for a phone…yet. As she moves away from me and starts dating for example, she will get one. It will also be checked by me and closely monitored. I do worry about sexting…she doesn’t know many boys yet, but who says that a picture won’t be passed around from a girl who does?

    Tough choices…but I think I would lean toward my mother’s philosophy. Kids want privacy but they are not mature and make stupid stupid mistakes. They need parents to see around the corners of life for them that they mentally are incapable of doing yet. A parent needs to know what is going on in their kids life. But at the same time not make the kid feel like they are in a prison.

    Finally, you are the parent. The buck stops with you. Until they are of legal age you are responsible for your child’s actions. Would you drive a car blindfolded? You need to use whatever tools are at your disposal.

    A friend of mine who has raised lots of kids told me once “how do you know if a teen is lying?…their lips are moving!” I don’t know if it is quite that bad but I think there is some truth in that statement. Kids will use every tool available to them to try to achieve some measure of independence even when they are not ready to handle it. Parents need some tools too.

  2. I put the family computer in the living room so that there would never be any sense of privacy while they were on it. When they got cell phones (16yrs) they were basic and were for phone only, no texting and no internet. I would search their rooms pockets, backpacks etc whenever I felt the need to. I didn’t feel that that was just my right it was my responsibility as a parent to do those things. Turns out it was all just a big waste of time and effort since I wasn’t able to protect them from themselves anyway. ;’-(

  3. Lynn, it sounds like you have some sad stories… 😦

    I think searching a kid’s room regularly is only going to make them better at hiding (if they know the parents are doing it). It might be good just so that the kid knows they’re going to be held accountable for their actions.

    There’s gotta be a way to find a balance between telling your kids “you are your own person who needs their space” and “I’m not going to let you do something stupid if I can help it” (because I love you and care about you, on both accounts).

  4. I started teaching my kids how to make good decisions when they were very little – and that included learning that all decisions – good ones and not so good ones – come with consequences – sometimes very unpleasant ones!

    As they grew, the difficulty and importance of the decisions – and the impact of the consequences – grew with them, but at the same time, my trust in their decision-making abilities also grew.

    By the time the sticky teen issues came up, they were making more good decisions than poor ones and we enjoyed mutual trust and respect, and even more importantly, a relationship which allowed me to mentor and coach them on decisions which were over their skill level.

    I think here in Saudi, there is more justifiable fear of the “big bad Internet ” because society as a whole is like an untrusting parent who forces decisions on individuals without ever teaching then how to make good decisions, or deal with the consequences of poor ones.

    No one develops a moral compass, an internalized sense of right and wrong, good and evil. It all comes from outside or from others, so when those outside forces are absent – or even just out of sight – anything goes!

    Likewise, no trust is ever established, which means there is never a time when the “parent”, be it an actual parent of society, can back off.

  5. @SGIME
    “No one develops a moral compass, an internalized sense of right and wrong, good and evil. It all comes from outside or from others, so when those outside forces are absent – or even just out of sight – anything goes!

    Likewise, no trust is ever established, which means there is never a time when the “parent”, be it an actual parent of society, can back off.”

    Wow. You’re really into the massive generalizations and stereotying today. You might try spending time with a better class of people.

  6. Catherine, yes, I have some sad stories. 😦

    “you are your own person who needs their space”

    Sounds like an invitation to move out! lol The one that pays for the ‘space’ gets it.! 😉

    I didn’t search my kids’ rooms on any kind of regular basis only when suspicion got the best of me and to tell you the truth I don’t know if they even know, to this day, that I ever did since I never found anything contraband or anything. But I am fairly certain that they realised that, as the parent, I had the right to.

  7. I can’t really comment on whether or not it’s right to snoop since I’ve never been a parent. However, I will say that the most important thing is to develop a sense of trust between the parents and children as well as teaching children about good decision making through letting them make decisions on their own like SGIME mentioned.

    Whether or not my parents snooped, I was more or less honest with them. If I really wanted to hide something from them, I would have been smart about it and not kept the evidence around home. Knowing that snooping is always an option, I would have hid everything really well (and not always at home) if I had wanted to. The key is to not leave any evidence if at all possible. Getting caught is always a possibility, too, so if I had wanted to do something my parents wouldn’t have approved of, I’d have to take this into consideration as well.

    However, I respected the way my parents cared about me well enough that although I’d argue with them, I never sneaked out of the house as a teenager. I tried to be honest with them because they were honest with me. They trusted me, so I felt I could trust them. As far as doing something risque, I did read romance novels, but those I borrowed from my mom! LOL. Most of the things I wanted to do as a minor, I was allowed to do, so I honestly didn’t have a lot to complain about.

    To be honest, though, if I don’t trust someone I won’t be as openly honest with them as with people I do trust, parents included. So I think the best thing any parent can do is be there for their children and develop a good sense of trust- even when their children are mad because they want to do something their parents won’t allow them to do. Setting boundaries and being open with each other are also important parts of trust.

    My parents always tried to be extremely honest with me and believed in providing reasonable explanations, even when telling me no. We always hang out as a family (not just around the dinner table), so I think this helps, too. There were times I felt like the only person I could talk to about my problems that would understand me was my mother.

  8. I feel old when I say this, but when I was growing up, parents, at least mine made a point for indedependence. At age 12, I flew from NY to Sydney by myself. I think now, the airlines would not even allow a minor t o that far. The assistance I got from the airlines was close to none. ( ofcourse this was 1985)
    I think one reasons I am tough and can work overseas is my parents did not cuddle me, only gave me direction when needed and cared mostly how I excelled in school.
    Some studies have fouond that students now in mid-20’s have their parents come along for the jib interview, e.t.c., parents are talking to professors about their ADULTCHILD progress. To me this is insane!!!!! There is fine line from nurturing to overbearing cuddling, even ‘Sam’ gets reward no for finishing homework—
    Again, I feel old, but I am afraid the generation younger than generation ‘X’ is a lot more immarture.

  9. ‘Some studies have fouond that students now in mid-20′s have their parents come along for the jib interview, e.t.c., parents are talking to professors about their ADULTCHILD progress. To me this is insane!!!!! ‘

    OMG, I have heard colleges talking about that!! I couldn’t believe it! I thought the whole POINT in parenting is to raise SELF reliant human beings. BUT, I think if the parent is paying for the college education they have the right to see the report card at the end. Not to go to the college about it but for the kid to share it with the person who financed it.

  10. Jacey, I bet (hope) your parents DID cuddle you but perhaps, like my parents, they didn’t coddle you? 😉

  11. Kids need limits. Well-thought-out limits and appropriate enforcement of them (which includes checking to make sure rules are being respected) help kids feel safe.

    I have a teen daughter who seems to be doing well so far. We monitor everything openly. Before songs go on her iPod, she talks about them with her father. If they’re inappropriate, they are not allowed. The computer is in the living room. She has a cell phone which we monitor. We give her rules and expect her to follow them.

    School work, chores, self-care, piano practice: these are her jobs and she does them well. As she demonstrates competence, she gets greater privileges — as appropriate for a 14-year-old. She still needs our guidance and support.

    What is equally important is that we talk every day during family meals, welcome her friends (who are also great kids) to our house, include her in household chores where we all are working and chatting together. We treat each other and her with understanding and kindness — even when we disagree.

    Rules and enforcement are necessary, but empty if they are not balanced with sincere, demonstrated respect and love. During one heart-to-heart, I told my daughter that I am not her friend. She has lots of friends, but only one mother. I think that’s a good thing.

  12. I believe that I was a liberal and open parent and never intruded on my son’s room. However, speaking as the grandmother that I now am (smile), I think it is more challenging to parent today with the influx of modern technology that every child seems to understand and know how to use by the time they’re 3 years old!

  13. Parents who negotiate parenting with their children are trying to be friends above being parents. I am sorry, but as a parent, your responsibility is to ensure that your child lives to be an adult among other things. This can be accomplished in many ways obviously, but to give your child the sense that you own them all encompassing privacy is odd… I do not know if my own parents searched my room or school bag, but if they did it was their right and responsibility. None of those items were something that I earned or paid for on my own accord. Not to mention, I was a CHILD! Not an adult.
    My perspective, I do not think that children need cell phones. Nor should they have unrestricted access to the internet. Once they leave my care and guidance, they can do whatever they like.
    I am feeling authoritarian… Maybe it is my mood : ) Tschuss!

  14. It is heartening to see that many parents share the same philosophy as we do (I AM the parent in the video and not ashamed to admit it). Our local news station had a hard time finding anyone willing to admit they actually parent. I do believe that is a problem in today’s society -along with the “me” attitude seemingly being instilled in today’s youth. Parents don’t seem to be as willing to teach and show their children how to show charity and accept responsibility as they did in centuries past.

  15. I agree with you Lisa and am so proud of your children and their sense of responsibility and charity. You’re a GREAT mom!

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