A possible contender for "worst parenting gadget ever invented" is the Verizon Hum. I was at the Verizon store the other day buying my youngest son a new phone and before we were allowed to complete our purchase, we were given the hard sell for the Hum.
Apparently, it’s a device you can install on a car that can track a whole host of things, including the speed at which your vehicle is going. The salesperson actually said to me, “Don’t you want to know when your child is speeding?” A little intrigued – but mostly horrified – I asked how the device worked and was told that I'd get a text message every time my child was speeding. He also said that the device was so small that my child wouldn't even have to know I had installed it on the car.
No, I certainly do NOT want to know every time one of my sons speeds. I'm anxious enough without receiving text messages about their driving. I could see myself drifting off to sleep and then being jolted awake – and into full panic mode – after receiving a text message that my son has gone above the speed limit.
What am I supposed to do with the information? If I call him on it he’s going to know that there’s a device on the car. Despite occasional evidence to the contrary, my kids are pretty bright.
I can just see the conversation: “I have a hunch that you were doing 75 in a 65-mile zone, cut it out.” To which my child would respond suspiciously, “How do you know that?” And when I tried to explain that I truly am telepathic, they'd pull over, locate the Hum, quickly disable it, and then toss it out the window.
This would do absolutely nothing to improve the mother-son relationship. The way speeding works in this house is like this: If they get a ticket, they have to pay it, and they have to deal with the consequences. When my middle son received a speeding ticket last fall, it cost him half his monthly allowance. This put a big dent in his spending money. I told him if he got another ticket, I'd simply take away the car. No Hum device needed.
To be fair, the salesperson was young enough that it's unlikely he has any children, much less driving-age teenagers. If he did, he wouldn't have tried to sell me this device with a straight face.
The Hum is another example of too much information, a trend now completely out of control. They call my generation “helicopter parents” and then they force us into helicopters and make us fly them. The school parent portal? TMI. Apps on our phones that help us locate our children at all times? TMI. (By the way, that locator app can truly make you crazy, especially when it shows your kid is in the middle of a body of water.)
My husband suggested that we should just LoJack them. Or perhaps we should hook our kids up to biometric appliances that will track their body temperatures, caloric intake, and waste output, not to mention all of their thoughts and emotions. (Good luck with those last two—you would need a Vulcan mind-meld with my boys.)
By the way all the salespeople in the store were pushing the Hum, I'm guessing those devices are not exactly flying off the shelves, and I want Verizon to understand why. It’s not that we don't want information about our children. We do. We just want to get it the old-fashioned way – by prying it out of their surly selves.
We don’t want fancy gadgets making it too easy for us, or giving us more than we want or need to know. In a last ditch effort to get us to purchase the Hum, our salesperson told us that we had two weeks to reconsider our decision before the “special” price would be rescinded. I assured him that I don't need two weeks, my mind is already made up on this one.
On the other hand, if Verizon can come up with a device that gets my kids to empty the dishwasher or clean their rooms without being asked countless times, I'll be first in line.