The Teen Years: Parenting in the Digital Age

4 years ago

I've said it before, and I will say it again.   I am SO glad there was no such thing as Facebook or all the other various social media sites when I was growing up.

Teenagehood is HARD, but I can't even imagine what it's like growing up with the constant push to over share.  Not to mention the cell phones to snap a picture and document whatever shenanigans are being performed right then.

The flip side of that is that our jobs as parents must evolve and grow.  Moms no longer read notes passed between classes to find out juicy gossip or listen in on phone calls to see if there's a new boy calling her daughter. 

We have to go online.

Image of a Teenager by Slightly Everything via Flickr

Part of the deal with the boys having access to social media is that they know I will watch what they do.  I'm their Facebook friend, Twitter follower and see their Instagram photos.   I feel as if part of our job as their parent is to guide them in the RIGHT way to use the ever-growing social channels.  If we don't monitor what they do and step in if it's going wrong, then who will?   The other benefit is simply knowing what's going on in your kid's life and their friends.

Parenting is not for those who want to sit on the sidelines. It definitely mandates active participation.

With that said, I admit the thought has crossed my mind to wrap my kids in bubble wrap to protect them -- from the bad things in this world and from their own poor decision making.  Especially since sometimes we slip and miss something.  Which is what brings us to today's post.

I knew the 13-year-old was using Instagram. He talks about it all the time and references pictures or jokes he saw, but I neglected to actually check it until a girlfriend of mine (who is also his "friend" on there) mentioned over coffee that I might want to take a peek.

That peek turned into wide-eyed, mouth-open, chin-on-the-floor stare.

I was F-L-O-O-R-E-D with what I found.   In the grand scheme of things, I imagine what he was reposting was tame.  It was more of the inappropriate factor that bothered me.  Sexual innuendo, foul language, and basic teenage boy humor.

I get that kids will be kids.  I do, really.  I also know that my son is no longer my baby boy.  He's growing up and doesn't laugh at the same juvenile knock knock jokes he used to.  He's developing an adult sense of humor.  And if we're honest, I laughed at most... okay ALL... of the postings in question.

That night after dinner, we sat down and had a serious talk about what should and shouldn't go out onto the World Wide Web.  I told him that simply because something is marked PRIVATE doesn't mean that you can't find ways into seeing it.  Contrary to what he thinks, I'm not the only person who enjoys a good Facebook/Instagram/Twitter stalking session.   He needs to be mindful of what he puts out there because this is something that is never going away.  Before he hits publish, there needs to be consideration for WHO might see it.  If it's not something that he can discuss at the dinner table with his little sister and parents, it probably shouldn't be shared.

As far as punishment, my husband wants to ban him from all technology.  And while he IS grounded from his iPod for a few weeks, I don't agree with anything permanent.   Technology and social media isn't going anywhere anytime soon.   Our jobs as parents will be to help guide our kids on the right path and figure out what should be shared and what shouldn't.

If we shelter them from all of it, then what happens when they move out and gain access?   They'll become the people who don't know when it's too much.  The ones who have Facebook fights for the world to see and posting duck face bathroom pictures wearing bikinis or much worse.

No, thank you.  I only hope my kids are patient with me as we navigate this path together.

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