*I originally wrote a version of this post on the BabyCenter Blog FIVE years ago. Guess what? All of it – 100% – still worries me. Raising children in the age of social media worries me more so now that we’re so close to actually using smart phones and other social sites.*
I’m not a saint. When I think back on my high school days, there are moments that make me cringe, even almost two decades later. I did some stupid stuff.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Kissed the wrong boys. Kissed the right boys at the wrong time. Partied too much. Engaged in activities that may or may not have been legal.
But I was lucky. I grew up in an era where the only way to remember those moments was and is memory (or perhaps an errant camera on spring break!) Mobile phones? Not around. There was no option to text, Instagram or Facebook unfortunate instances as they happened for all the world to see. Cybershaming didn’t exist yet. Sure, kids were mean and bullying happened, but it was different.
I sat on a bike at the gym while the television sets above bombarded my eyes with unpleasantness. One story focused on teen sex and how we send the wrong messages. The other focused on the recent suicides of two young girls after images of their alleged assaults were shared online and throughout their communities.
I am terrified – for my children and for me.
I’ve pondered many scenarios that may or may not happen in my children’s lives. Never, for one moment, have I considered telling my son that under no circumstance should he photograph or videotape a female (intoxicated or sober!) in a precarious position. Never have I considered that as I’m teaching my daughter the dangers of drinking and driving and defending herself, I have to also mention that she could, indeed, someday be photographed naked against her will, and to be smart about all situations in which she finds herself.
One stupid mistake can change everything. Whereas before you might have been able to chalk things up to rumors, reputations are now tarnished based on photographic evidence. You don’t get to forget.
I’m going to have to make rules and set boundaries different than the ones that were laid out for me. When my children receive their first phone, they will have to understand that the phone, in fact, does not belong to them. Until they are 18, they do not own it. I do. Therefore, I will have every right to look at it whenever I feel privy.
The computer? Not theirs either. Any accounts they open, I will have access to. Private thoughts are for journals and diaries, not for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or YouTube.
That’s not to say my children will have no freedom or privacy. Trust is earned.
I was allowed to go to parties where parents were not in attendance because I was open and honest with my mother. The same will go for my children. If they can prove they can be intelligent in their social media decisions, I’ll stay out of their business.
However, I think it needs to be said that knowing what your children are doing is not the same as being “all up” in their business. They are still children – children who must be taught about manners, laws and societal rules. They have to be taught how to behave appropriately in ALL situations. We, as parents, owe it to them to educate ourselves on their world. Social media isn’t going away.
And as we all do, our children are going to make mistakes. I just don’t want it to be a mistake that ruins their lives.
So where do we start?
Here are a few options of books/websites to get us going. These conversations must happen. This cannot continue.
If you’re looking for some type of program or software, you should check out Bark. This product combines a software monitoring solution with an educational curriculum and useful content for kids and parents alike. They are emphasizing family collaboration and education, and have proclaimed they are NOT spyware.
This post contains affiliate links.