I don’t know how many of you have been to a talk on cyber safety, but they are definitely worth your time. I attended one recently and found myself feeling very nostalgic and sad for my kids. I’m so thankful that I didn’t grow up in this digital world that is so vast and so “public”. Our kids will never know privacy, ever. And worse, anything they put out there in cyber space, is permanent. We constantly hear that their “frontal lobes” aren’t fully formed until they are 25, so how are they supposed to make decisions that we tell them can impact their future and the rest of their life? We try to teach them that their words and pictures do not go away, but that’s an impossible concept to get across to a kid. I can’t believe I’m doing this, but do you remember the good old-fashioned telephone and if a boy wanted to call you, he had to get through your parents first? That awful moment when you call, hear a parent on the other end of the line, and quickly hang up. That was before caller-id when they could bust you on the spot. That’s such a huge part of the process of growing up and experiencing awkward moments that shape who we become. Unfortunately, with cell phones and technology, that will never happen to our kids. Parents are bypassed all day long. I just read a great article and the author asked the question, “Would the movie The Breakfast Club even exist today”? Think about it, those kids would all be on their phones, taking selfies and telling everyone on the outside how lame their day in detention was. They wouldn’t be interacting and actually talking with one another. They wouldn’t be asking Carl to talk to them about a career in the janitorial arts. It’s so sad. I don’t know if this generation has a name but I call them iKids.
One thing this woman spoke about that really caught my attention was family values. My thoughts immediately went to honesty and integrity. But the more she spoke, I found myself sinking in my chair. To be on any type of social media you need to be 13 years old. And for some reason, I was pretty head strong about that with my daughter and Facebook. She got her account the day she turned 13 – but here’s what gets me. For some unknown reason, we let both our kids have an Instagram account, a few years ago (way before they were 13). I don’t know if subconsciously we had no idea the legal age was 13, or maybe we didn’t want to know? But her talk made me realize that our kids had to lie in order to get their accounts, which is painful considering the fact that we teach them to never lie. The direction of this conversation made me very uncomfortable, because it pointed out how easily we can slip, even if we are incredibly head strong parents.
When I got home, I did exactly what this speaker said not to do. I had a major download with my son right after the talk, because that’s just who I am, sorry. I asked him how he felt about lying about his age to get his Instagram account – to which he replied, “Mom, it’s not like I’m killing anyone, or hurting anyone, I just want an Instagram, and you said it was okay. What’s the big deal”? So I told him that the big deal is that it compromises our family values, and if we compromise on some things, how and where do we draw the line. We ended up having a very good conversation.
She taught us that even if we can’t keep on top of all the trends, we could control behavior. In other words, we shouldn’t be scared of Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, Wanelo, Pheed or Kik, but we need to establish guidelines. Face it, the hot “App” trends are going to change constantly, depending on what kids think is cool. We will never be in front of that, but at least we can “Get on the bus”. Don’t even get me started on R-rated movies.
Have you bent any family rules, in order to let your kids have Apps, play video games or watch movies that they shouldn’t be allowed to? Email me at email@example.com.