Tech: A responsibility of modern parenting

by julie on January 5, 2013

Last week, I tweeted about my daughter and a friend FaceTiming with boys. I’d been reminiscing to myself about my own fifth grade slumber party activities, like prank-calling boys (in the days before caller ID), but ended up in a lengthy discussion of how our kids are using social media.

While parents seem to limit themselves to Facebook, kids are everywhere: Facebook and YouTube and Vimeo (even when they’re younger than the minimum age), plus Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram (no minimum ages). They’re using these tools differently too; Instagram mimics Facebook for the under-13 set. Some lock down their accounts; many don’t. Some are careful about the personal information they share; others aren’t.

The Steubenville rape case involves social media. The video of Michael Nodianos callously discussing the rape is on Vimeo. Cody Saltzman posted a picture of the unconscious girl on Instagram. Multiple boys tweeted and posted on Facebook concerning the night’s events.

Meanwhile, the Steubenville high school football coach told reporters that “he [does]┬ánot ‘do the Internet.’”

The case is horrific no matter where you call home, but I come from small town Ohio where football was a very big deal and where folks didn’t talk about sexual misconduct. We kids whispered together, but no information was forthcoming from adults. Steubenville has me nursing that old queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach: What really happened? Am I safe, or do I need to protect myself?

Much of the interaction remains the same, but the technology surrounding it has changed dramatically. Instead of prank-calling on a rotary dial phone, our kids chat over wi-fi. It’s our responsibility as parents to understand that technology and monitor its usage. Were Cody Saltzman’s parents following him on Instagram? Have Michael Nodianos’ parents watched his video? Do any of those boys’ parents check their kids’ Twitter feeds and Facebook profiles? Same goes for the girls involved, including Makenzie Santoro (the “friend” of the victim) whose Facebook account is still active.

Where are the parents? Regardless of the details of the case, it’s shocking to me that so much interaction took place behind a veil of technology that parents seem unwilling to penetrate. It’s their responsibility to do so.

I know it’s uncomfortable to deal with conflict, especially stemming from information that wasn’t intended for adults, but that involves the health and well-being of kids. You will not regret looking out for someone else’s kid, and perhaps someday they will return the favor.

I know it’s a lot to learn, and it’s always changing. That’s no excuse. There are resources to help. Start here, with Cool Mom Tech.

And for god’s sake, talk to your kids. Tell them the truth, and help them look out for themselves.

wendy January 5, 2013 at 1:14 pm

just finished this and i can barely make myself take the time to thank you for this post before sending it to everyone i know through every social media tool available to me. it’s important, what you’ve said. i have one mom friend in particular who has her head in the sand about social media and her daughter who’s already in ninth grade. she’ll be getting this post, too–although i’m going to have to print it out for her.
thank you again.

Cloud January 5, 2013 at 3:08 pm

My kids are still too young for this to be a worry in our lives- but we know the day is coming. I’ve long said that the thing that finally gets me on Facebook will be my daughter wanting an account. Apparently, I’ll have to get on a bunch of other platforms, too. I still think these tools add more to our lives than they take away, but it is bit daunting to think of all the extra things I’ll need to follow!

Kristen January 5, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Thank you for bringing this to my attention because I needed the shock to my system to remind me that we’re always fighting the good fight.

And so glad you started the conversation, which turned into a really valuable interaction about tech for many many parents.

Like I said on Twitter, parents need to be many steps ahead of their kids, not behind them, especially when it comes to tech. As much as it’s an amazing tool, for learning, communication, and self expression, it’s also pretty freaking dangerous.

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