'Helicopter Moms:' Hurting or Helping Your Kids?

"Hovering mothers," eager to stay close to their kids at college, text, tweet.

ByABC News
August 28, 2009, 1:30 PM

Aug. 28, 2009— -- It's the start of the school year, and for kids who are heading off to college many miles from home, it's time to learn a big lesson from their parents: You can run, but you can't hide.

Tech-savvy moms and dad are texting, tweeting, even "friending" their college freshmen on Facebook -- eager to stay close to their kids long after their minivans pull away from the dorm.

Those who've felt the power of parental omnipresence include Ethan Lewis and his younger brother, Brendan. Their mother, Robyn Lewis, is an extraordinarily devoted parent. As a single mom, she home schooled her sons and her life has revolved around caring for them. Even while her sons attended college away from home, and she had a full-time job, Lewis maintained interest -- or hour-by-hour involvement -- in her boys' lives.

When not on her cell phone with one of the boys, Lewis organized their lives, spending hours drafting "To-Do" e-mails for her sons, checking their grades, their bank account balances and even using their personal passwords to check their student e-mail. She worked tirelessly to keep everything in her sons' lives in order -- from doing their laundry to organizing their schedules to proofreading their papers.

And Brendan and Ethan both say they're grateful for their mom's efforts on their behalf. "She wants to make sure that I do it well, and it, and it's all because, you know, she cares," said Ethan. "She's like the most selfless person on the face of the planet. She has succeeded in every aspect of giving my brother and I everything a kid can ask for."

Brendan echoed his brother's appreciation for his mom's help. "It's nice to have someone else who kind of serves as ... a secretary mom."

And the "secretary" characterization doesn't bother Lewis. "I think that's great. It means that I'm very organized. A secretary helps to keep the boss focused and organized, right? We don't know how to balance much of our lives yet when we're 18," she said.

No one could deny that Lewis loves her sons and wants them to succeed. But not everyone thinks that such intensive involvement is the best thing for their development.

"I can understand why a parent would think, 'I'm just doing what I think is right for my son or daughter.' The problem is, they're doing exactly what's wrong for their son or daughter," said Helen Johnson, author of the book, "Don't Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money."

Johnson, a consultant on parental relations for some of America's top universities, says parents like Lewis are far too involved in their children's lives.

"In taking over, they are sending a profound message: You are not capable of handling your life," she explained. Johnson is more than familiar with the term in vogue to describe someone like Robyn Lewis: a Helicopter Mom.

"A helicopter mom is a mom who hovers over every state in her child's development, from basically in utero, through the college years and beyond," she said.