I am a parent of two young boys who are not on social media... yet. I’d like to think that when they get older and delve into social media, they would welcome me to follow them. Then again, I've already seen what's in store for me, and I'm not sure I want to know all the dirty details.
I follow some of my friends' kids on social channels. I didn't ask to follow them or seek a friend request; they invited me. A few allow their parents to follow as well, but there are some that do not. At first, I was uncomfortable knowing that I had access to my friends' kids' social world. I took it as a sign that they trust me and see me as a respected adult.
Granted, these kids aren't teenagers, but young adults. Every once in a while, I see some unsavory posts: late-night drinking with friends, selfies in revealing outfits or even borderline discriminatory tangents. I get it. I was once young and lived in the moment. Thank goodness social media wasn’t so prevalent back then. In my day, you captured that stuff on film. Yes, I realize I just dated myself.
When I do see some of these unsavory posts, I turn off my parent radar. It’s not my place to give them a lecture. They are young adults and need the freedom to express themselves. If their parents are part of their online social presence, then that’s another issue that I am not getting into.
If I see “Sally” in a compromising pose with a young man plastered on her Instagram, do I cringe in shock? Yes. Or, when “Joe” goes off on a Facebook tangent about how some girls are teases and get themselves in situations that just ask for rape. Do I want to call his parents and lecture them how they raised a sexist pig? Hell yes.
But, I don’t tattle on them.
I am not afraid to comment, just like I do for any of my friends who put their personal views and business out there and subject themselves to everyone’s opinion. I take into account that they are young, but I’m not afraid to counter their opinions with my own. For Sally in her compromising pose, I remind her that whatever’s online stays online for the world to see. Or Joe, I tell him I don’t care what she’s wearing, drinking or saying, no is no. If they want to be adults, I’ll treat them like adults.
Have any of these kids unfriended me? No. Many of them go through a phase and mature. Some take longer than others. However, watching these youths' need to document their lives online has made me realize that it is we, the parents and adults, who are the cause of it. We see so much online that there is no mystery of what’s going on in people’s lives. We know who’s going through a breakup, who's starting a diet and if baby Maddy just got her first tooth. Kids have had their whole lives on display since social media become mainstream. This is what they know as the “norm.”
I don’t report these kids' antics to my friends because it's not my place to do so. Of course, there is a fine line that is difficult to know when to cross or when not to. I haven’t seen anything illegal posted or anything dangerous that warrants me saying something to their parents. It’s a double-edged sword: Some parents would welcome the info and some would probably get very defensive and think I was being judgmental.
Honestly, I’m not sure what I would do in that situation myself. I would like to think that I would be fine with hearing the news from a "friend," but then again, sometimes it's worse when it comes from someone you know.
Nope, it's better left unsaid.
When my kids are old enough to have social media accounts, I will trust them. I hope that some common sense will rub off on them when it comes to sharing their personal business online. And, for my friends who may follow them in the future, you don’t need to tell me about everything they post.
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