I like to think that I’m a very tech savvy mother. I know where to look in social accounts for security flaws, I research apps before I allow my children to have them, and regularly check all their social accounts and followers. I know all their passwords and have access to their phone 24/7. They also must hand their phones over to me at 8:30 Sunday night and they cannot have them back until Friday morning. Until today I felt confident in my abilities to manage my children’s access to media.
With all these checks and balances in play, I still managed to screw up. I failed to check their internet browser, and so when I ran into a friend at the grocery store this morning I didn’t expect it would turn into a complete re-evaluation of how I’m doing things. My friend mentioned that she too was so caught up in monitoring the social accounts, she neglected to check the web. When she needed to Google something quickly one day, she reached for the nearest phone (her daughter’s) and then found herself picking her jaw up off the ground.
Sick to my stomach, I rushed home to check my daughters' phones. I had been neglectful looking at them and I knew it. It would seem my oldest has learned how to erase her history. This is a no-no in our house. Deleting implies you’re hiding something, so while I don’t know for sure what she was looking at, I know it was certainly something she didn’t want me to see. My youngest, however, hasn’t mastered that yet and her history was nauseating. There are simply no words.
And I’m sickened. So totally disgusted at my failure, at theirs, and at ours as a society.
How do I explain that something found so freely on the internet is wrong in so many ways? These are subjects that I can barely wrap my head around at 44. For heaven's sake, I just finished patting myself on the back for covering matters of puberty and where babies come from without discomfort, and now I must broach subjects that make my skin crawl.
So what to do?
Well, I can't lie. My initial reaction was of the fly-off-the-handle sort. After talking to my husband, though, I was able to rein myself in to think properly.
My oldest has lost her iPod for a month (as well as computer and iPad), after that, school rules (Friday–Sunday access) remain in effect for the summer. I believe in my heart that the worst she was on was YouTube watching music videos. The one thing this kid cannot do is lie to me. My youngest, however, is going to be kicking it old school until September. Bye bye internet, her iPod will be collecting dust. When she does get it back, it will be without the capability to surf the net.
Most certainly by revoking their internet access I am handing down a punishment. I absolutely failed to check (and will be battling my own demons over that one), but I have had many conversations with my daughters about what they could search, what to do if they tripped on something they knew they shouldn’t be on (primarily nudity), and so on. I have no doubt in my mind that my youngest knew she shouldn’t be on these sites. I always tell my girls that if they wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting beside me looking at it, then they need to get the hell out of there. There is no way any of these sites passed that test.
The punishment aspect of this is really only about ten percent of the reason I’m pulling the tech, though. The bigger aspect here is for a cleanse. A complete tech detox.
I don’t want to whitewash my past. I won’t bore you with stories of “when I was a little girl." The truth is, we all had moments of innocence lost and I had my fair share along the way. I am, however, one of the last generations to remember what life was like before the internet. The worst I could find was a Playboy at my Aunt’s house with naked girls that gave me a warped sense of self. Our children can and do have access to sexually graphic images that make Playboy look downright wholesome.
What I do know for certain is this—despite our growing dependence on the internet (I make my living off it), no child has ever, or will ever, shrivel up and die from lack of access to it. My girls will feel the sting at first, but I expect this might be the best summer ever for them. They will need to collect phone numbers, and call people to make plans. They will have to talk to their friends face-to-face rather than emoticon-to-emoticon. They will not need to worry about losing expensive hardware or breaking it. I expect it will be quite liberating.
As if by fate, I ran across this video while I was in the middle of writing this. It’s beautiful and only strengthens my resolve to cut the tech for my kids this summer. I’m certainly going to be joining them as I work on new parameters of when and where I can access it, too.
Finally, we'll be talking a lot about the things she cannot now unsee. That is the part I dread the most, but am now fully on the hook for. Excuse me while I go search for that manual they handed me when my kids were born.
I hesitated to share this post. This is by far the most intimate thing I’ve ever written about my children. However, they are children and messed up, they’ll learn and move on. The bulk of the blame rests squarely at my feet. My only goal here really is to inform other mothers to never let your guard down. I did, and now I need to perform major damage control. I certainly don’t feel I’m too late and there’s much worse that could happen, but damn if I don’t hate the internet today.
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