Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Parenting in an Internet Age

I say at least once every other day: "I'd take a thousand newborn sleepless nights over dealing with teen stuff."

I have a deeper appreciation for my parents as I continue on my own parenting journey and delve into pre-teen and teen years.  Don't get me wrong, I was a very tame teenager. I also knew I was the kind of kid who'd get caught doing something I wasn't supposed to, so there wasn't much satisfaction in doing something that would inevitably land me in trouble anyway.   For the most part, I was mouthy and can truthfully say that was the worst of it.  I thought I knew better than my mom and told her.

I deal with that with Andrew currently also.  It's tough.

Some nights I'm so exhausted dealing with a Gremlin toddler, a new baby, a tween drama queen and a mouthy, intelligent teenager asserting his "freedom of speech" {thank you, social studies} that I often fall asleep sitting up before I make it into my bed.

The one significant element that I have no source to garner wisdom from to help me navigate these years, is the internet aspect.

Now.  Having a tween and a teen who have a desire to be online for certain things, we are navigating unchartered waters.  Andrew is on for youtube and playing xbox live and Reagan for instagram and texting.  My parents could control who came into our home.  Explaining an abstract concept like this to kids isn't always the easiest. 

With Andrew, we've been talking about this for years.  He had an internet look-up incident in 4th grade when some kids were talking about something and he came home and googled.  Yeah, enter the conversation about restriction on internet use. And can I just say, GAH---ROOOOOOSSSSS! I've never been the same.

Watching a billion "To Catch a Predator"s made me super diligent about checking up online.

Andrew knows, if he's online, I know that password. There are no secret accounts, social media activity, email accounts, nothing.  He also knows that at anytime, we can {and do} check out what he's doing, looking at, writing, sending etc.  When he was little, Spiderman was one of his favorite movies, so I often toss out the, "With great power, comes great responsibility," with regard to his internet privileges.

Have I had to ground him from being online? Yep.
Have I had to remind him that whatever he puts out there, will never go away? Yep.
Have I had to explain that the same manner of respect in speaking to people applies to chatting online? Yep.
Does he get mad and exclaim exasperatingly, "You always baby me. I'm not in 2nd grade, Mom!"? Yep.
Do I care that he thinks I'm tough? Nope.

Enter Reagan. She got an ipod touch for her 8th birthday from her mom and stepdad. 

Here's again where the blended family/coparenting waters get tough.  We thought she was too young. Not our decision to make though.  It's been fine mostly. Reag plays her games, texts her mom, whatever.  Not really online interacting with others.  A decent while ago, she joined instagram. Her mom made her account private and only her mom and I followed her.  After a little bit, I removed her from following me and unfollowed her.  I explained to Reagan that I have my account to interact with adults and didn't feel she and I needed to be "friends" online. Now, mind you, I'm not posting anything inappropriate on instagram, but I'm not my kids' friend. And I don't want to be.  They have enough friends.   

This school year, Reagan discovered more of her friends on instagram and also began texting and group chats.  It didn't take long, within a group of 9 and 10 year old girls, for someone's feelings to get hurt, drama to start, and issues to arise.  We told Reagan that we didn't feel it was appropriate to be texting anyway and if she wanted to talk to her friends, to call them. So "no texting" became the rule during the week while she's here.   

George and I still checked on her instagram to make sure her pictures were ok, see her followers, who she was following etc.  We can't control that she has the account, but can control what's going on inside of it at our house.  We asked Reagan about a couple people that we didn't know and she explained how she knew them.  We had the conversation about strangers online and she's not allowed to be friends with people she doesn't know etc.  She's pretty agreeable here about stuff--doesn't try to push the issue.  She knows George means business and that's that.

The difficulty with a kid who lives in two places is when their parents have  different ideas about parenting. Regardless of whose house Reagan is at, we want her protected online at all times. That's not to say her mom isn't worried about that as well, but differently than my husband.   If that means Reagan's no longer allowed access to her online stuff while she's at our house, then that's what that means.  It makes life easier all around because there's no back and forth issue. Maybe in a few more years, we'll consider getting her an ipod, but for now, we feel she's way too young anyway. So she'll play with friends instead of texting, play outside instead of gaming. We're ok with that because she's a kid.  George is always going to be in Reagan's online business.  And he should be.

Andrew's still trying to barter with us and his dad for a smartphone for his 15th birthday.  Luckily, we're all on the same page about it. 

I hope one day these kids look back with appreciation for what we did to cultivate them to be healthy, happy, functioning adults, no matter how "mean or unfair" they think we were.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.


  1. I would like you to come over and parent my girls when they are teens, you are doing everything RIGHT! Nice work momma! xoxo

  2. I love what you're doing. As the mom of two girls, I worried (and still do with M) about online stuff. The internet is a whole new ball game now.

  3. Just stumbled across your blog! We live in Pittsburgh now, but were in Nashville for a few years while my husband pursued some music things! Saw that on your about me and and wanted to share! Small world! :) Love this post. I worry about the internet stuff and how to go about that for when my little guys is all grown up!

  4. You are doing it right! :) The internet can be a scary scary place.