Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting but beautiful day of an older mom like you!
So today, Muffin decided to join us on this episode. As you could see, Muffin is my one-year-old Shih Tzu. Muffin is a good dog for the most part. She goes potty immediately after going outside, but she does suffer from separation anxiety, so she had to be with somebody at all times. Otherwise, the neighborhood can hear her barks, so that’s why she’s joining us today because my daughter’s off dancing, and Muffin just can’t be by herself. So, say hi, Muffin. If you see the YouTube video, you can see Muffin there.
Now, Muffin’s a bit naked today, and I don’t think we can have that. So let’s put on a dress on Muffin. Now, I have to admit that I always made fun of people who dress their dogs, but it’s almost like playing Barbies. Look at that face; you’re just going to have to go check out the YouTube channel so that you can see Muffin in her polka-dotted dress. Show these ladies Muffin what a good-looking dog you are!
So, what am I going to talk about today other than crazy Muffin here? Monitoring our children’s social media. I recently heard several people discuss this, and my kids’ friends have strong opinions about it. My kids have their idea about it. And you know what? I don’t give a shit. Simple as that. I don’t give a crap about what other people think. I do monitor my kids’ social media. And the way I go about it is not necessarily the way most people go about it. I think people, especially kids, overreact to parental monitoring because some parents get a little crazy when they monitor their kids’ social media.
Now, when I monitor my kids’ social media, there are three emphases I have. Number one, I want to make sure that they are not being cyberbullied. Things can get a little crazy, especially at this age, but I don’t really care about their fights, arguments, or disagreements with their friends. I think one thing that has happened, and you might disagree with this, is that the word “bully” gets thrown around every time a kid doesn’t agree with one of their friends or their friends doesn’t agree with them. In that disagreement, the word “bully” gets thrown around simply to mark disagreement between the kids, and that is not what I mean.
When I say that I’m interested in making sure that my kids are not being bullied, what I mean is that they are not being stalked. Someone isn’t harassing them, that someone isn’t going after their emotional state of mind, which is different than a disagreement. At this stage, boy, do they disagree with one another. All of the time! So, not the same thing.
Second, I want to make sure that they are not being stalked by predators. And that has happened a couple of times. But because we monitor their social media, we catch it early on, and we nip it in the bud. My kids are also pretty good about blocking people. They block anyone who asks for their age, who is not age-appropriate, discusses anything sexual in nature, or any stranger they feel is inappropriate. So, they’re pretty good at self-monitoring, and they have definitely gotten better as they’ve gotten older. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop monitoring them, primarily because kids’ at this age can make some dumb decisions.
Case in point, one of my friend’s kids, a girl a year older than my own, took a picture of her breast and sent it to her boyfriend. She was lucky the boyfriend didn’t send it to all of his friends or anybody in school. Instead, he freaked out and showed it to his mom. Mom, in turn, called my friend, and they had a conversation. They dealt with it appropriately. But not everybody is so lucky. So, part of the other thing that I’m doing is helping my children not to make bad decisions that are going to have long-term consequences. And let’s face it, what you put out there on the internet today can have a tremendous impact on your future.
I mean, look what happened to this young lady who was singing a song that had the n-word on it. She repeated it, and one of her friends recorded it with the full intention of using it when he could cause the most harm, which was what happened. She got accepted, I believe, to the University of Tennessee. The “friend” released the video of the girl singing this song or rapping to it, and there was the n-word. Now, this girl has lost her scholarship.
So, of course, there are some simply non-negotiable when it comes to our family. My kids are not allowed to discuss religion or take pictures of them that are sexually suggestive. Sorry. I don’t care if it is an appropriate expression of their sexuality. They’re simply not allowed to post it out there. It’s one thing to try on a crop top that fully shows their figure when we are around. It’s another thing to use that crop top to pose suggestively and then post the pictures. That is not okay.
Why is it not okay? Again, long-term consequences. They might be comfortable with that post today, but will they be comfortable with that post tomorrow? Five years from now? Ten years from now? And also, what kind of attention will that post gain? Who is going to start following them or sending them messages as a result of that post?
You can never be too careful. Not only because there are people who are waiting for that opportunity to hurt you down the line, not only because you don’t need to make your mistakes public, but because there’s a lot of sexual predation on social media. And kids need to be aware of that and be protected.
I still can forget the girl in Irvine who had been talking to somebody on the internet for a long time. They met up, and she disappeared. When she did reappear, it was because her body was found. As parents, we are very conscious that kids this age don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions. Kids trust too quickly and believe they have developed intimacy that is not true intimacy or actual knowledge over social media. So, those are our concerns.
Now, recently, one of my daughters made the argument that she’s entitled to her privacy. But is she really entitled to privacy at the age of thirteen? She is. But she’s not entitled to have a cellphone. She’s not entitled to have an iPad. She’s not entitled to have a computer. She’s not entitled to have access to my internet provider. She’s not entitled to those things. Those are privileges; they’re not an entitlement.
And even if Santa brought them a gift, such as an iPhone, they still need me to pay for the service. They still need me to pay for the internet. And those things are not entitlements. They are privileges. They will earn more rights to privacy as their maturity level grows.
And frankly, part of the challenge is that one day they can act like a thirty-year-old, and that next day they act like a two-year-old. I know they’ll be offended when they hear me say that, but that is the reality. When they behave immaturely, we, as parents, need to protect them from themselves. But, as I’ve said before, they don’t fully understand the possible consequences of their actions. They just don’t. Nor do they know that said consequences could be traumatic to them.
This isn’t about us wanting them to be perfect children, not at all. At least not in our case. In fact, let me tell you, sometimes when I review their social media, I cringe at the language they use. Now, they know better than to use it with me or use it in our home, but they use it with their friends. I don’t say anything about it.
Sometimes, I see their arguments with their friends. I want to roll my eyes or drown myself in the tub. I’m thinking, “Oh my goodness, how can they be so dumb about these things,” or “How can they allow themselves to be manipulated this way?”
I don’t intervene because it’s part of the learning process. Kids need to have the opportunity to figure some things out on their own. So those are the kinds of things that I discuss with them if they choose to discuss with me.
There are different levels of openness with my girls. One of them seeks me all of the time, and we have a lot of conversations. I’m not assuming that she shares everything with me. Still, we do talk openly about many different issues regularly. And she knows that I don’t always agree with her.
One of my other daughters is a little bit different. She complains that I don’t spend enough time with her, but the reality is she doesn’t seek me out. I do make efforts to seek her out. I just spent several hours watching a show called Danganronpa. It’s an anime show, which I don’t even know how to begin to describe. It’s basically a bunch of teenagers trapped in a school who have to murder each other. I don’t even know how she got into this. She has this particular thing where she always empathizes with the monsters that society creates. I think she has the potential to be a great social worker. I think she also has the potential to be a great child advocate. She’s very empathetic and really, really cares about how people come to be ugly and how to avoid that.
So despite the fact that I don’t particularly enjoy the show, I watched it with her because I know it means something to her. It says a lot of positive things about her. She struggles to understand why the characters make their choices and struggles to understand why they don’t band together and save the group. So, she’s very interested in those kinds of arguments, but I really have to seek her out.
My other daughter is still a work progress. We’re still trying to get to know each other. She enjoys it when I tell stories, but she doesn’t necessarily share her stories with me. It’s a process. It’s a process because she has two moms. I know that she spends time talking to her other mother about what is important to her and what she cares about. But this child isn’t always responsive to criticism. She often feels that criticism is negative when criticism really is neutral. When you’re saying this is not a good choice, it’s not because you want to impose your will. It’s because you are helping them protect themselves from themselves, from their own decisions, and from their own mistakes at this age. That’s a parent’s job.
Yes, we should let them fail. We should allow kids to make a mistake. But there are mistakes, and there are MISTAKES. I don’t want them to make mistakes they post on social media. Some mistakes should be made more privately, with a smaller group of friends, or within the family.
So, again, I don’t care that they want more privacy. Privacy in our home is not assumed. It’s earned when we show that we have matured and are capable of making better choices. Better choices on the critical things, those non-negotiables!
Muffin is also working on making better choices, the choice not to bark when she’s alone in a room, and there are just people around the corner. We’re working on that. Right, Muffin? She’s not entitled to privacy either, and at least I can still tell her how to dress. I don’t do that with my daughters anymore.
Do I monitor my kids’ social media? Yes. Do I feel guilty about it? Nope! Do I know how long that will continue? No. There’s no set point at which I will stop doing that. Again, it completely depends on their maturity level. I am fully aware that perhaps someone will get less monitoring at an earlier age than someone else. It also means that if they don’t monitor themselves, they might lose the privilege to their electronics or access to my internet provider. Cause again, just because Santa, or their uncle, made them a gift doesn’t mean they have access to my internet or my telephone carrier.
Do these cause problems between the girls and me? Yes, it does. But I’m going to be honest with you; if I weren’t comfortable with those kinds of problems, I wouldn’t have had children in the first place. That’s the reality. Children are challenging. Parenting isn’t always easy, and motherhood isn’t always pretty, and I knew that when I got into it. So I understood all of that.
I also understand that regardless of how good of a mother I am, kids will find a reason to criticize me. They have already found them. And one day, sooner or later, they’re going to yell at me that they hate me, and I’m okay with that. I’m absolutely okay with that. It is part of growing up, and we need to keep reminding ourselves of that when we become frustrated. It’s just a rite of passage. They are going to grow up and be well-rounded and happy adults.
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