$100 a Month to Watch Your Kid Be Parented By Big Brother? I Don't Think So
I know we parents seem like easy marks at times. We are known for scooping up too-cute baby outfits and kid toys that we secretly want for ourselves. But we aren't total pushovers. Sometimes we'll read a marketing pitch that's designed to pull at our maternal or paternal heartstrings and we'll say, "Come on. Someone would actually pay for that?"
I came across just such a pitch on Facebook today. Of course, the fact that it showed up on one of the pages I was viewing tells me that Facebook has me pegged as a prime target for this particular pitch: a parent with kids headed off to college and university. And perhaps, because I have indicated that I have more than a passing interest in parenting (okay, I've "Liked" most pages on the site that have something to do with parenting), Facebook figured I was a natural for this product that has been designed to allay the fears of parents who are worried that Junior will crash and burn during his first semester away from home.
The online program is designed to teach students how to improve their academic performance, manage their emotions, take care of their physical health, and make wise choices while living on their own. The program sets out goals and activities and allows students (these are young adults, remember) to earn points that are redeemable for whatever the parents want to offer in exchange for Junior spending an hour a week online working through the program. (The terms can be set out in an optional Rewards Contract.)
Parents have their own separate log-in, which includes a dashboard which allows them to monitor their child's progress. They also receive separate emails from the system and, should they decide to hire a certified coach to work with their coach (for an additional fee, of course), they will receive progress reports from the coach, too.
There are two things that bother me about the program. First of all, there's the price tag. One hundred dollars a month (or $1000 a year, if you go for the bulk discount) is an obscene amount of money to pay for access to common-sense advice. Load up on a couple of self-help guides and highlight the relevant pages for your child and you'll save yourself about $950. And then there's the fact that you're spying on your child while he is remotely parented by software that's filling in the parenting gaps for you. Creepy.
If you're worried that you've failed to teach your child everything he needs to know to survive in the real world, have some heartfelt conversations right now (in person, by phone, via Skype – whatever). Or write your child a few emails passing along the wisdom you've been meaning to pass along, but never quite got around to sharing. It will mean a whole lot more.