Parents are so consumed with keeping their kids safe in this Age of Information, they may be failing to fully explain to them why precautions are necessary. For instance, why posting pictures of themselves online is dangerous because it can attract crazies. Or, how their images can be stolen and photoshopped on porn or other inappropriate pictures and then plastered on various websites or shared in an attempt of cyberbullying. Welcome to the digital world!
Just yesterday, my sister wanted to take a picture of my son doing something goofy. However, before she snapped it, he granted permission only if she agreed not to post it anywhere. She assured him she wouldn't so he let her take the picture. I then called him over to me and said, "For the record, never believe anyone outside this room who tells you they won't share a photo."
A shame, right? Yet, this is the day and age we live in. No one can expect even a basic form of privacy, especially when outside their home. The bottom line was this was a totally innocent and silly picture. But the bigger lesson was clear.
Parents put in place rules and regulations regarding their children's activity online (at least I hope they are doing this), but are they diligent about telling their kids why they implement these rules. Sure, sometimes a simple, "Because I said so," will suffice, but typically, especially with older kids, you need to give them the reason(s) behind a restriction. I am not known for sugar-coating my concerns either. Having spent six years working in the juvenile criminal system, I've seen just about everything and can be quite blunt about things relating to sex, drugs, and violence. NOT telling your kids isn't going to keep them safe.
There is such a thing as being too restrictive. My son has had a small group of friends for the last couple of years. Some girls, some boys. All of them platonic - they "date" outside this circle, lol. One girl, we'll call her Suzy, isn't allowed to do anything. She can't go to the mall with the group and she certainly can't talk to boys on the phone (do they realize that she and my son and his other male best friend are inseparable at school?). When we ran into her and her family at the movie theater some months back, she barely acknowledged my son - with me standing right there! I asked my son what that was all about and he said, "Oh, it's her parents. She can't really talk to boys."
In my opinion her parents missed the perfect opportunity to meet one of her male friends and his mother. Maybe that would have put their minds at ease (or possibly would have cemented in their minds the reason why she can't talk to boys!) Either way, at some point parents have to trust that their kids are doing the right thing. We can only monitor so much. Don't they deserve some level of privacy?
The other day my son was sitting next to me busy texting away, or so I thought, with a friend of his. I asked him who he was texting. He answered, "Suzy, but we're not texting, we're emailing."
"Why are you emailing, isn't it easier to text?" I asked.
"Yes, but she's not allowed to text boys," my son said.
And, there you have it folks. Proof that your teen will find a way around any rule you set.
Parents can tell their kids they can't text someone or they can't have social media profiles, but let's face it. Kids are way more computer savvy than most of us. Do you seriously think my son couldn't have a secret profile online without me knowing? Of course, he could. Up until recently, I told him none were allowed until he was older. Well, now he is older so I have adjusted my stance that he can, but I want him to let me set it up so security measures are put in place. Could he still open one secretly? Absolutely. All I can hope for is that I've given him enough knowledge not to do so, and reiterate that I am not infringing on his privacy, but looking out for his safety.
Most parents will insist on having all the passwords to their kids' accounts. Whether or not you do, don't be naive. If your teen wants to set up a private account, they will. Therefore, it is more important to educate your children on the dangers of the digital age than to just forbid their activity and assume they won't be able to pull the wool over your eyes.
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