I’ve talked about our family’s views on technology ad nauseam. I’ve shared our experiences, the good, the bad, and the embarrassing. I’ve detailed my views about having an open-dialogue with your kids, trying to use technology in balance, empowering children to use technology responsibly, and how it takes a village to raise a child.
What is their left to talk about you ask?
At least 3 times a week, I get an email from a current or former classroom parent about technology. So many of their questions all filter to the same concern: How do I keep my child from the bad stuff? And my simple answer is–you can’t. But you can teach them how to be responsible and make choices in keeping with your family values.
Just yesterday I blogged about how my family has been failing in our tech-life balance. A few quick changes at dinner time and the flood gates opened last night! One child was sharing concerns about some classmates who have been Snap Chatting some rather disconcerting topics. I was shocked when my child showed me the stream of stories which included invitations to drink at a “my-parents-are-out-of-town” party, discussions about cutting, pictures of students drinking, vaping, and using illicit drugs, and threats of rape.
The tiger mom in me wanted to grab the phone and delete everything so my child wasn’t exposed to that material. But what good would that do? My child wasn’t hiding. By prompting a conversation, my child was open to share the fears and questions they have about their classmate’s stories.
I think I nailed mommyhood last night. I didn’t freak out. I didn’t shy away. I asked open-ended questions to glean more from my child and I let them teach me more about technology which continued an outpouring of words. The moral of the story is… If I hadn’t have asked, I wouldn’t know. And if I didn’t know, things could escalate. It’s important to have these discussions with my kids, but I can’t expect them to reach out first. It’s not in the (typical) teenage brain to operate in this way.
note to parents
We need to keep the doors open.
Participate without hovering.
Be open without controlling.
Listen and stop talking!
As my child and I continued to talk, it reminded me of a podcast I heard over the weekend. (I love listening to Invisiblia on NPR because every podcast flips the way in which I look at the world.) The dialogue in “Post, Shoot” really got me questioning the persona we project of ourselves out on the internet and the “real” lives we live at home. Do I do this? How are my kids projecting themselves? Are these classmates sharing the real them or are they concealing the truth with all this gibberish?
Reviewing this podcast layered some new context over my child’s Snap Chat experience. Are these classmates really trying to get drunk or are they digging through their parent’s liquor cabinet and recycling to show pictures of themselves being “cool.” Is the child truly depressed and cutting or are they hoping someone hears them in a need to be “seen?” Whatever the case may be, it’s our job as responsible community members, not to overlook these issues. As a parent, I need to take my concerns to the other parents, school counselor, or authorities (in cases where my child is being threatened). If not, I am complicit in these children’s missteps.
So after this intense night with my child, I kissed the fam and tried to sleep. I tossed and turned thinking about what’s happening in these other children’s lives. And then a rush of calm came over me and I fell fast asleep. My child trusted me enough to share. It was that simple. Though our family fell off the (tech) wagon a bit lately, it’s OK. Rob and I had established and modeled rules of transparency, honesty, and trust for so long that our kids could confide in us. They felt open enough to share all of it–the good and the bad. By encouraging my kids to walk through the stories with me, I was able to see that our children are being socially responsible. They are not engaging in this type of conversation, they are coming to the defense of the mistreated and vulnerable, and they are willing to share their concerns with a responsible adult.
I am working on quieting the tiger mom inside. I just need to remind myself that it’s more important to participate in their digital lives–not control it! If I keep doing this, I will empower them to be socially responsible digital citizens.