Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chatting with your own kids

This title reminds me of a column that was written some years ago by the former CEO of SPC Group, Joost Steins Bisschop as a column to the Dutch Financial Times (Het Financieele Dagblad). The story is that Joost created an account on MSN using a nickname. This name was chosen in such a way that it looked like the MSN identity of a 15-yr old boy. He knew that his daughter was a regular user of MSN and just of curiosity what would happen Joost tried to get into the contactslist of his daughter. He managed to do so, and as a matter of fact they started a chat session. The interesting issue here is that Joost knew he was chatting with his own daughter, but the daughter didn't know her father was on the other end of the line. After a short while he confessed who he was, which was a little bit of an unpleasant surprise. It felt like a sort of intrusion or even betrayal into her personal life, because she had been rather open in her communication with her new 'friend'.
Everytime I am chatting with my own kids it reminds me of this column. The difference is that we know each others identity. Most of the time when I'm working my MSN account is active. Everytime one of my kids gets online I see the popup in my screen. It's a very convenient and efficient way to ask if everything is ok, if a test went ok or just to say what time i'll be home. Takes usually less than one minute and then I'll continue with my work. It's much easier than picking up the phone, dial the number, wait before someone answers (if at all) and have a talk which can easily last a couple of minutes. My kids are also used to these small MSN chats, and they have no problem that their 43-yr old father is listed between their MSN friends of their own age. I think (or should I say hope?) that they feel it's rather cool to have a dad who is using the same digital tools they do.
Oh yes, in case you worry, as far as I know Joost and his daughter did have a good talk about this and everything is ok with them.

Because of the summer holidays, the number of posts will probably be lower in the next couple of weeks.

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