The other day I read through some of my teen’s text messages. He has quite a collection of group chats going on... because teens.
You may be thinking this is an invasion of his privacy. I get it. This may not be how you roll. I say to each their own. Everyone has to come up with a system they think works best for their family. This part of the story really isn't up for debate in our home.
Our teen knows whatever comes in and out of a device is not private and that my husband and I may read it.
Other kids, however, may not be aware that what they send also becomes "public" once they hit publish...because teens.
Most kids don't think anyone other than the intended recipient will view what they write or send. Maybe they don’t care. Maybe they do. I think mostly they just don't think at all.
But, I can tell you what I found was surprising. Language. Mildly offensive things...because teens.
I noticed that when a certain thread got a bit “questionable," a few people “left the conversation.” Those kids have older siblings, and I suspect they are savvier than some of the less mature kids.
My point: My teen was not without fault but also didn't even pick up on some of the things contained in the thread and the way they came across. Context is lost. The expression is void. Reading between the lines, the emojis, the innuendos.
We discussed why certain things were not OK to write or say to others, let alone to send out into the Worldwide Web where they will live forever. We explained how situations like this could affect a future job, relationship, etc. We reiterated that even being on the "receiving end" of some things makes you guilty by association.
But, the trickier pickle was what to do with this info once I had knowledge of what was contained in this series of texts. And here’s the quandary in parenting today.
Most parents don’t want to know.
“Not my kid!” or "He or she would never..."
And let's face it...It is exhausting.
The thing is, it is your child. And it is mine, too. Most teens are clueless trying to navigate the high-speed tech world they have at their fingertips. Half the time they do not even think a millisecond about what they say and do...because teens.
So, I nervously reached out to a few of the other parents. Without judgment, I let them know what I read so they could have the information and because I care. Surprisingly, it was well received. The kids weren’t being bad kids, per se.
They just need accountability, to be better educated about this stuff, to be monitored, to be parented. Teens need parents who say certain things are not OK.
Parenting today is different than any other time in the history of ever. No other generation dealt with their children having access to so much at their fingertips on a device that fits in the palm of their hands.
We are all doing the best we can with literally nowhere to turn for advice from those who came before us. I can't say to my Mom, "How did you do it? How did you deal with social media and group chats?"
If you are wondering if your child is making mistakes online, I am willing to bet the answer is:
Are we, as parents, also making mistakes parenting kids in a tech world?
Does it make them a bad kid? NO.
Does it mean we should bury our heads in the sand and give up? Also NO.
The question is how will we handle these albeit sometimes awkward moments. My hope is we will give grace to one another and to our teens; I hope we will not finger point or place blame or label a good kid/bad kid. Instead; I hope we can be there for one another while we all attempt to navigate this very challenging landscape.
More thoughts on raising teens and life: www.mybattlecall.com
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