I graduated high school 17 years ago. Very hard to believe. What might be even harder to believe is that my teenager will be entering high school in the fall. We have been trying to create her schedule and plan out her four year high school career. And as frustrating as that has all been for us I think there’s a lot more I will have to worry about with her in high school. A lot more she has to worry about thanks to the creation of the internet.
When I was in high school we did not have all of these social media sites. Honestly, I made it through high school without even having a computer in the house. My parents didn’t buy a computer until I went to college. Even in college I used a word processor to write reports. There were a few girls in the dorm with a lap top and dial up internet and every once in a while they would allow me to use it, but it was mostly checking email or looking up some information for a paper that was due. There was no Facebook. There were message boards, but it just wasn’t as widely used back then.
Now everyone has an electronic device, or 10, which can give them instant access to the internet. No more finding a phone line to connect to for dial up. Kids have smart phones and Ipads and laptops. We are connected to the world and it’s a great thing, most of the time. A scary thing the rest of the time.
My Time On Social Media
So for the past 13 years I have been fully on the internet I have seen so many things change. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and now G+ have all taken over the days of AOL chat rooms and message boards. I have been involved in more than my fair share of internet drama in the past decade plus.
Most of the time it’s no big deal. You just state your opinion, someone tells you it’s wrong and you move along. The rest of the time it’s like being in high school all over again. There are people saying well if you’re friends with her then you can’t be friends with me. Lists of people you shouldn’t interact with. Unfriending people on Facebook on a whim. Maybe you didn’t respond to a picture or status update in a way they liked, or your constant daily updates on your life just get too annoying. Friendships ending over social media.
I didn’t like the whole popularity contest when I was in high school. I certainly don’t enjoy it now. But honestly, I’m more worried about my kids.
Do My Kids Stand A Chance
I don’t have my kids too connected to the internet. My 13 year old just got Facebook last year on her 13th birthday. Most of her friends had been on Facebook for years already. She does not have a smart phone (I don’t either). She doesn’t need to be connected to the internet that often. Until recently her cell phone was only to be used for emergencies. She has just now been allowed to start texting and she hasn’t missed a beat with that. While she hasn’t run up our bill (we have unlimited texting) she is texting 3 times more than me and my husband are.
But aside from all of this the internet is forever. This was a tough lesson for me to learn. One that I try to express to my children. The internet is a privilege not a right and they need to use it appropriately. And I only have control over what they say and do on the internet. I can’t prevent their name from ending up on some arbitrary list that someone makes up simply because of who they are friends with. I couldn’t prevent my own name from ending up on such a list and I’m 34 years old.
Someones reputation can be permanently damaged. Futures ruined when they have done nothing wrong. Kids taking videos and posting them to Youtube for the world to see ruining their reputation forever. It’s scary. Parenting in the information age is not easy. Protecting our children from predators on the other side of the world and in a whole new way from their own peers.
What Can We Do
We have to be aware. Aware of our children and know their friends. Check their social media accounts. Limit the ones that they have and seriously lock them down. I will admit, I do not check my daughter’s texts and Facebook, but I make it very clear that I can and I will at any time. To keep her on her toes I will ask her about her social media or who she is texting with. I have confiscated her devices. She can only use the internet in the living room. Sometimes she is allowed to bring her computer into her bedroom to type up a paper. She is not to go on the internet, and I have told her I will know if she’s on.
I even recently did go through her friend’s list on Facebook to find out who some of her friends were. She is allowed her privacy, but I retain the right to read whatever she has put out digitally in some way.
I only wish I could do that for every child she comes into contact with. Alas, I cannot. So in the event that she should find her name on a list which defames her character in some way I will hope that the law and/or the school will be able to help me get it removed. I hope it never comes to that. I hope she never does something or befriends someone that would cause someone to act in such a public and hurtful way. I know from own personal experience though that even if you are polite, sometimes just the people you are friends with can hurt you. It was wrong way back when I was in school and it’s still wrong, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t still happen.
How will you protect your children from the information age?