At times like these, the rule benders come out.

This is the problem with guidelines. They can’t account for individual circumstances. That’s the parent’s job now.

Third comment, from Cate:

“During the school closings, should you encourage your child to interact socially via FaceTime, etc. when he or she is uncertain or uninterested in that activity?”

The short answer to Cate’s question is “no” for my son, and “yes” for my daughter. And we’re all stuck in the same house, so it’s hard to hide the discrepancy.

Quoting the Middle School Continuity Plan emailed to us on March 16th: “Remove your child’s cell phone and any other smart devices from the room while your child is engaged in school work.”

Margot takes after her father, in that she can bend rules almost without thinking. James and I are rule-followers.

So imagine my discomfort when I entered the home office on the first day of online school to find Margot simultaneously on her school-issued Chromebook and chatting with a buddy. Remember this photo?

Okay, so the Chromebook is closed. But it was open when I walked in.

Now I have a lot of experience with rule benders. I remind myself it’s what makes them so much fun. So, I let Margot keep her phone. But then Cate asked her question, and I emailed Perrin Jones, Director of Middle School at Margot’s school, for clarification.

Did I throw Margot under the bus? Maybe. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the privacy of one for the benefit of many. Perrin wrote:

“Many middle schoolers don’t have the intellectual and emotional maturity to use a phone responsibly, which is why I recommended parents take them up during school work.  But they have to learn, so not allowing any phone use may not be the right way to go either.  It depends on your child.”

This is the problem with guidelines. They can’t account for individual circumstances. That’s the parent’s job now.

So here’s my thinking. Margot is allowed to use her phone during online school because I’m usually within earshot, she knows I’ll take it away if she misuses it, and she benefits from the social interaction that comes during school time. Thrives on it, actually. And this online school has stolen that bright spot from her days.

James isn’t allowed to use his phone, mainly because it’s one of a zillion distractions that assault his brain all day and prevent him from using it to his full capacity. And if I did allow him to use his phone with certain criteria in place, the distraction of rule-breaking would be too much for him to bear. He gets plenty of other opportunities to test the limits with his phone use outside of school time, trust me.