Something of a flaming post today, because I'm still a little dumbfounded at what I experienced last night.
I went to the Oldest’s mid-year Curriculum Night this week, going from room to room with the other parents like a herd of sheep, listening to teachers outline what our darlings would be learning for the next five months. Then the fun began. The School Resource Officer (SRO) conducted a Facebook 101 lesson for any parents who wanted to stick around, and there were plenty who stayed. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, Facebook, Twitter, and texting are the only ways teens talk to anyone anymore. For the record, I don’t text, and I just can’t seem to care about Twitter, probably because I don’t want to know if someone just ate a sandwich… and it was a ham and cheese… on marble rye… with mustard… honey mustard.
More to the point, you mostly likely have seen the news stories of cyberbullying, some cases having led to teen suicides and lawsuits. It’s enough to make most parents shake in their boots and proclaim to the world: “No way is my kid getting one of those!” Or you can do what we and other parents have done, what one father last night crystallized by saying, “All these new social media are our kids’ reality. We need to teach them the skills to deal with them appropriately.” It is part of our job description now as parents to help our kids learn this stuff, just like we teach them how to tie their shoes and brush their teeth.
In our case, the Oldest wanted a Facebook page. Fine. I created it. The user name and password were written down in my notebook like any other account in my house. He changes it without my permission, I can and will found out and he’ll be 18 before he gets Internet access again in my house. Then he had to friend Hubby, me, and all his aunts, uncles, and cousins because they'll be policing him too. Then he could friend his friends. I check his page on a regular basis. A friend’s unacceptable language on a regular basis will result in him/her being defriended. If his friends post objectionable things, the items will be removed and I reserve the right to contact that friend and/or his/her parents. He understands that if he does something stupid, he loses FB privileges. If he really screws up and hasn’t learned his lesson, his FB page will be deleted. Oh, and his spelling and grammar will be corrected. Not too difficult, right? Just exercising my rights and practicing parental responsibility. Here’s what I heard around me:
“I told her she couldn’t have one, but she went ahead and created one anyway. So now what am I supposed to do?” “You’re telling us we should know our kid’s password. What if my daughter won’t tell me hers?” “I saw some of the posts and tried to talk to him about it, so now he’s blocked me from his page.” “What’s the school’s policy on it? What are you telling our kids about it?” “I’m not really good at this technology thing, so I don’t understand this stuff.” “But if he has the IPhone, he can go somewhere like Starbucks and they have free WiFi.”
Really, people? Here’s a thought. This is NOT a school issue, unless it's taking place in the school. The school had blocked access to FB, plus there's a rule that says your kid's phone is to be OFF and in his/her LOCKER during school hours. So they can do things like... learn. It's YOUR issue, because it's YOUR kid. The computer is, most likely, something YOU purchased. The Internet access? Paid for by… YOU. You try those excuses with the judge after the keg party is broken up at your house, they won’t fly. Because the law says that you are the adult, the parent, the one ultimately responsible for your kid’s actions.
Who's in charge in these homes? Because from what I heard, it doesn't sound like the parents. Maybe it’s time to stand up, put on your Big Grownup voice, and sit your entitled little snot down. Tell them there are rules. It may be the first time they’ve heard that phrase in your home, but trust me, they’ve heard it at school. Learn the technology. Your lack of knowledge about this stuff isn’t going to help your kid if and when they have a problem online. If they won’t give you the password or keep blocking you, contact the SRO and he’ll help. Or contact Facebook. Tell them this is your MINOR child and you want the account closed. Then start over. You may be The Worst Parent In The World and your child may Hate You Forever, but they’ll get over it. Someday they may even thank you. Like when they get that Dream Job, because the other three candidates are dismissed thanks to the HR department searching for, and finding, pictures of the first guy from Facebook when he was 16 drunk at a party, pictures of the second candidate from MySpace in her bikini underwear blowing kisses at the camera (her boyfriend REALLY liked that one, and kept it… online), and the third in a fight outside a bar… on YouTube.
And don’t worry. If your kid is being offensive online, I’ll let you know.