“Thank you for your order.  Total: 12 pounds.”

Wait–I’m not British.  I don’t have a pound in my pocket, just a few extras around the waist.

It seemed my kid sent somebody in Manchester, England a pizza over the internet.  It cost about $30 bucks.  Luckily, I got the notifier so I could investigate.

“Scheduled for ASAP.”   Too late to cancel the delivery guy.  Someone’s eating lunch.  Everything on Demand’s a beautiful thing.

I got excellent customer service at HungryHouse.com, the site Declan ordered from.  “Oh, you’re not even in the UK?” the rep asked.  He was in Berlin.  It took a minute or two to clear things up and I got a credit.  During that minute I looked through the site, jealous my thousand-chicken town doesn’t have Everything On Demand.

My town has one take out Chinese take out joint but no delivery, so I had to learn to cook my own food, package it in recycled plastic, and leave it on my doorstep.

Then, I’d answer the door and give the Nobody Delivers Here Imaginary Delivery Guy a fake tip with Monopoly money and eat my food, which would’ve tasted better chefside at the restaurant.

Food worth eating is worth cooking or traveling for, but everyone wants to be part of Generation Takeout.

All this great food and excellent customer service begs the question:  How do I stop being a bad parent in the digital age?

For the price of a pizza in Manchester, I learned cybersecurity.

“I didn’t do it!” Declan said.

Of course he didn’t do it!  I used to volunteer in prisons–nobody ever “did it” there either.

“Are you sure?” I asked.  “I’m not mad… maybe  you accidentally clicked ‘yes?'”  Declan knows not to click the box on Amazon.  If he’s watching our Amazon videos, he could easily buy a car since Amazon doesn’t let me segment accounts.  That was Declan’s first lesson.

Next, I taught Declan not to click yes to in-app purchases.  Marketers’ genius are limitless but parents’ wallets are not.   Self-control in an instant world is nearly impossible to develop, but essential to teach.   If I’ve taught him well, he’ll have the strength to turn down that fifth drink at happy hour with his boss later in life.  For now, “no” to purchases will do.

It’s hard to maintain control in an age where Declan says things like, “I had to defeat your parental controls, Mom, so I could watch YouTube.”   While that video might be perfectly appropriate–and I let it slide–that slippery slope avalanches in, “Mom, want to see my new friend on Omegle?”

Omegle is a stranger chat site.  If you’re an adult looking to meet an Internet full of people, great.  If you’re an 8 year old–not so much.


“You have to ask me first.”  It’s the universal disclaimer I fall back on when I screw up–my “Because I said so!”

“Okay, Mom.”

It’s not easy parenting in the digital age.  Parents used to have to keep kids safe in the back yard.  The world is now my back yard.  I do the best I can, but when I overlook things, I use it as a teachable moment.  So far, no irreversible damage has been done.

I check Declan’s history–no mention of pizzas, food, England, soccer, the Queen, or DanTDM, who lives in London, I’m told.   Either Declan’s slick enough to selectively delete his history, or he’s telling the truth.   This might, indeed, be a hacked account.

“I didn’t do it, Mom!”  He’s adamant.  Usually he would’ve cracked by now.

The mystery of the pizza will never be solved.

I take all necessary precautions just in case.  I threaten the boy, check my bank statements, and keep alert for notifiers, messages, or emails asking “How was your pizza? Would you like to order dessert?”  Nothing.

I may be in the clear.

Semper vigilante: The internet is the new Wild West

Still, in the age of convenience and instant gratification,  I need to be vigilant, on the lookout for suspicious things.  I need to teach cybersecurity–how to spot pfishing, fake links, fraud, con artists and problems before they blow up.

“That’s my friend,” Declan’ll say about a kid online in a game.  Sometimes they’re “friends.”  Not always. We’re developing a whole new relationship vocabulary, a whole new way of buying, connecting, and being online.  It’s a transition for me.  It’s reality for Declan.  He’ll never know another way.

I put my pizza paranoia to rest, and watch him play a game.

“I’m number one!”  he says.  “Take a picture!”  I do.  He’s proud.  I cheer like a soccer mom.   He’s having fun… and for the moment, my credit card is safe.

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