Raising Adolescents . . . This Ain’t Your Mother’s Childhood

Raising kids in this day and age is absolutely terrifying to me. Then again, I suppose parents have been saying this for generations.

Do you think that parents 300 years ago were saying the same things we are today?

Kids these days are so lazy!

The world just keeps getting smaller.

It’s just not as safe as it used to be.

It’s a whole new world out there!

I don’t know, but I feel like technology is moving at warp speed and I’m drowning in the sea of parenthood over here.

The latest fad in the adolescent set is video chat.

When my son first came home and wanted us to set him up with an account so he could video chat with his friends, my husband and I were vehemently opposed. But after we thought about it a bit, we relented. We set time limits. We already don’t allow them to take computers to their rooms, but we reiterated that criteria. And then we decided to see how it went.

So far, so good.

It was weird, at first, but then I realized that when I was 12, I was in my room talking on the phone to friends. At least on video chat, he is in the main part of the house, and we can hear and see what he’s talking about.

In fact, sometimes I will overhear him say, “Oh hi, Mrs. —-” to his friend’s mom who just happened to walk by the computer. It’s kind of cute.

He’s not on Facebook yet, but that’s coming. When he turns 13, I will let him open an account. This is a whole new world to me too. I am already “friends” with some of his friends on Facebook. It kind of cracks me up when I get those friend requests, but I figure, why not?

Sometimes they will respond to something I put out there. I’m sure there will come a time when they are “too cool” for that, but for now I’ll take it.

I’m still undecided as to what restrictions we will put into place when our kids start to open Facebook pages. I know some parents require their kids to friend them on Facebook, but of course they can restrict what we see. Fortunately I’m pretty social media savvy so hopefully I can keep an eye on things. But then again, I don’t want to violate their privacy either.

In some ways, with texting and Facebook, I think parents are actually MORE in tune to their kids these days and more aware of what they are up to. It seems like my friends with older kids are texting with them constantly — almost to the point that I think it’s a little bit weird. I never called to chat with my mom when I was hanging out with friends or at an after-school activity.

At the end of the day, the fact remains, information these days is much more public and much more permanent than it was when I was growing up.

How do I impress upon my kids the magnitude of the Internet?

When I was young, if I made a stupid mistake, it was quickly forgotten. These days, a simple mistake is broadcast on YouTube and Facebook for the entire world to see, and it lasts FOR-EV-ER.

It terrifies me.

But I guess all I can do is what every parent has done in every generation before me . . . teach them the best that I can, and then trust them to use wisdom and judgement, and pray that when they don’t, the consequences won’t be too terribly grim.

Those of you with older kids, what are your social media “policies”? How are you navigating the muddy waters of parenting in this digital age? Should I be very afraid?

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14 Responses

  1. Love this post even as a mom to a 5 and 3 year old. I’m really interested in what every one has to say. I don’t have a facebook acct and my husband told me I needed to get one so that we could keep tabs on the kids when they’re old enough. With technology changing so fast I said lets wait and see what’s happening when they get to an age where we would even allow them to have something like that.

    We do have skype at home and the 5 year old likes to talk with her cousins on that. I also have a kid friendly web browser so when she gets to have computer time it’s very easy for her to use. I want them to use and understand technology, but I think there is a balance that needs to happen.

  2. I love the idea of video chat (if it like skype) compared to texting. They are talking and seeing each other and responding.

    My 10 year old skypes with a friend that lives halfway across the country. It is funny, they don’t sit and talk, they play. Last time, they pretended that they were working in a bakery and it was only a little different than if the girl had been right in our living room. I had never imagined it being used that way. It made me feel a lot better about it.

  3. Eager to see what people have to say. Still undecided on the FB when she turns 13, and I won’t friend if someone is under 18 and not a relative, but I’m 100% with you on the rest!

  4. I too have tweens (9 & 11) and I prefer the video over texts… the context of the convo comes thru in addition to being able to ‘listen’ in a little better. When I gave my 11 year old her iTouch it was with the caveat that ‘NOTHING is private’ and it is not allowed up in your room at night. I have all her emails coming to my iPhone also and had her texts coming in too (until I realized I could not text my sister without her reading mine! LOL).
    My concern is with my daughters friends whose parents just hand them these devices with no instruction. That seems to be where our trouble starts.

  5. My oldest is a 14 (almost 15) year old girl and I’m a relatively young parent (34) but I seem to have a more strict parenting style than most of her friends. She isn’t allowed to date until 16 because she doesn’t need the drama yet. She didn’t have a cell phone until 14 and could pay for it with her chore money, she didn’t get a computer until 14 and has semi-strict usage parameters, and only recently joined facebook because there was a Harry Potter page for her Honors English class 😉 I have access to all of her passwords and she is fully aware that I can check in whenever I feel like I need to. Thing is, I never feel the need to.

    I feel like it comes down to your child. At this stage, she and I still have a very open honest relationship and she is a VERY good girl. We talk A LOT about serious situations she faces, or will soon face, and I get good honest feed back from her. I tell her my feelings on the subject and we have a good dialog about it. As yet, I don’t feel like I need to monitor her, just keep this level of connection going. Of course all of this could change when she DOES start dating 😉

    I’m not her “friend” on facebook for reason: 1) I don’t necessarily want her seeing my stuff, I have only 39 friends because it’s a place for me to speak freely and say what I want, if I have to sensor myself then what’s the point? 2) I don’t really like the whole adults friends with kids thing :-/ At least not when they are this age, just my own feeling. She’s not friends with other kids parents either. If it’s going to be a place to connect with her friends, then I and other parents don’t need to be a part of it. Again, this is because she is as mature and good as she is and I can trust her. Trust is a huge thing in deciding what is acceptable and what isn’t.

    And that is how I’ll explain it to the other 3 kids as they get into these situations if they have different limitations than she does 😉

  6. I have a few years yet but my 8 year old is already asking for his own phone. I think mostly just because he likes to play games on mine – for now…. And I’m sure things are going to change even more in just that time. There is definitely a lot to think about with our kids and technology but I think you are on the right track. 🙂

  7. Vicki Courtney has some good books on parenting that give some great guidelines for children and technology. I think the two books I’ve read by her are Your Boy and 5 Conversations you must have with your Son ( I may have those titles wrong). She gives great guidelines and reasons.
    There is no such thing as privacy when it comes to technology- a lesson I want my children to learn early on. My oldest has an iphone- because I need him to have one since he’s the oldest of 4 and occasionally is the one that gets picked up last. My second son has a kindle fire (he saved up) with parental controls. The other two are too young at this point. Computer access is only allowed in the main area of our home with parental controls and observation. I won’t go into detail about Vicki C.’s recommendations but I really like what she recommends in her books and blog.

  8. I don’t have to worry about this too much yet since my kids are 5 & 7. My 7 year old is already asking when she can have a phone. We told her we don’t know but not anytime soon. I just don’t see the point in them having phones at such young ages and facebook is something I will not let her have until she is well older. No younger than 13 or 14…if then! I understand we live in a techy age but she’s just too young yet for this. =)

  9. I have a 12 year old son, and a 21 year old daughter. When my daughter was 12, my biggest worry was AOL Instant Messaging, and we dealt with it by keeping the computer in our family room where I could peek over her shoulder from time to time. (She wasn’t allowed on the PC unless I was there in the room.) Then kids started getting cell phones with unlimited texting… and I became known as The Meanest Mother EVER(!) because I wouldn’t let her have one at first. She didn’t have a lot of after school activities, so I didn’t see the need for her to actually have a phone. Texting? Why, she could talk to her friends! Using our home phone! Which we were already paying for!

    Flash forward to these days. My son could not care less about having a phone. He really doesn’t want girls calling him, and his guy friends are into video calls, anyway. Now I’m The Meanest Mother Ever(!) because I won’t allow him on Facebook until he’s 13, either. And then, not only will I insist that he Friend me, but that he uses the family room computer and allows me to look at his conversations with his friends if I ask. I doubt that I’ll have anything to worry about, but better safe than sorry.

    Oh, and I wanted to share this quote with you: “Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.” Know who said it?


    The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

    1. “Oh, and I wanted to share this quote with you: “Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.” Know who said it?


      The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?”

      GOOD STUFF. And yes, that makes me feel better. 🙂

  10. Have you read the book “lol OMG what every student needs to know about online reputation” ? Might be worth a read for you since your kids are still so young.

    My son isn’t much into Facebook unless it’s to build a farm or some ridiculous thing 😉 and he isn’t into video chatting or really any kind of chatting. He will text but that’s about it. We have the same rule as you – no computers in bedrooms or any room that has a door for that matter. No computers in the basement family room. Not even his school issued laptop goes anywhere but the main level of our house in an open room.

  11. I have older kids (18, 20, and 21), and then a 12 year old daughter. The older kids and I discovered facebook and all that stuff, together. I started blogging in 2007, so in some ways I was ahead of them on the internet. I didn’t require that we be FB friends, but it was understood. I don’t horn in on their privacy or embarrass them … too much. But since I taught high school English at their school when they were IN high school, we were all used to the idea that I was all up in their lives, and knew all their friends, sometimes better than they did. At the ages they are now, I know that their lives and their internet are their own. I can just hope they will make (mostly) wise decisions. At some point you let go and let them fly. I do agree that parents today are WAY MORE INVOLVED in their kids lives than parents were 40 years ago. My parents were pretty clueless about what we did. But how much trouble can you get into, when you only have a bike? We had only one phone in the house, no computers at all. One b/w television. Kids today can get in more trouble when they have instant connection to The Whole World. Yeah, it’s scary.

  12. I’m finding out more and more that it all depends on the kid and the parent. My daughter has friends whose Facebook pages (and other social network options) are completely public. They voice anything and everything on their newsfeeds. The upside is I can easily find out about all of the teen drama and action, the downside is…their parents I think have NO idea and if I were a predator they would be easy easy prey.

    There was recently a “sexting” scandal in our community involving some jr high kids. While the girl and boy involved no doubt knew it was probably wrong to take nude pics and send them, i really do doubt they understood ALL of the legal ramifications. It went down in a big, big way and the punishments were *severe.*

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