I recently picked up a sewing class as part of my pursuit of being a domestic goddess (I’ve managed to make a lined shopping bag!), and (no surprise), everyone in the class is a stay-at-home mom. These ladies are quick-learners, and as we sew together PJ bottoms, conversation inevitably turns to everyone’s children.
Sadly, so many of these moms shared how overwhelmed they are with technology today; they don’t know how to keep up with their kids or how to keep them safe from online ill. Some were even pretty clueless about how prevalent and violent online pornography is today. The majority of the women don’t check up much on their kids digital lives, and they seem to be letting their kids dive right into the “anything goes”, uber-connected Internet age. Story after story, it seemed as though these parents had not set any guidelines or rules regarding what their kids could and couldn’t do, and as a result, their kids were running right over them.
Our instructor, however, made me proud. She told us all about how she regularly checks her daughter’s phone, Internet history and Facebook page. She only just got her daughter (13) and son (16) cell phones, and she disabled the Internet and photo-sharing features on the phone, and she also placed limits on the individuals that her son and daughter are allowed to call and text.
Whenever her kids encounter a tricky situation that involves another kid, she actually tracks down the mom or dad of the teen or tween involved and speaks to them directly. As she shared, she pays the bills, so she sets the rules. If her kids get in trouble, they lose the privilege of being online or texting on their phone. She says that her kids will throw a fit whenever that happens, but ultimately, they understand that she is the authority figure, and they respect her choices.
Since she engages with them regularly about what is going on with their lives (both online and offline), and since she set up the rules clearly, she has helped them to understand that the Internet is a privilege and not a right. Since she has also given her children a lot of guidance about relationships, they come to her for advice and talk (in sometimes shocking frankness) about the content and conversations they encounter every day.
She was sharing such a solid life lesson in our class that I hardly needed to chime in with anything other than an “Amen!”
If, like the other moms in my class, you feel overwhelmed and out of control, I would strongly encourage you to check out our Internet Safety Guide for parents—it has simple, easy-to-understand steps to protect your kids online. Also, remember that you are the boss. If you pay the bills, you should also set the rules, and your kids should mind them. If you set the rules and protections up on the front end, then you are more likely to avoid unfortunate situations (like accidental Internet pornography exposure or risky online chat). Remember that the Internet is a privilege and not a right.