I don’t envy parents today. Not only do they have to keep the kids safe outside the house, they have to keep them safe on the internet, too. When the on-ramp to the information highway first opened, my kids weren’t all that interested. They were of the generation that still played street hockey in front of the house or basketball on the neighbor’s driveway. The only way you learned someone else’s business was through good, old fashioned, gossip. And that was usually done through a series of phone calls or sugar borrowing.
When we first got our Gateway behemoth computer, it was used mostly for making sign signs that read No Girls Allowed or Top Secret – Stay Out! (this means you Meghan). The kids were more interested in the clip art to use on their science projects than anything the information highway had to offer. Social networking was done at Boy Scouts or on the ball field. The girls had a “chat room”, it was called cheerleading practice.
It’s different now. I hear other mothers talking about when to let their daughters have a Face Book page or the need for their eight year old to have a cell phone, so they can stay in touch. When my kids were eight years old, they weren’t allowed off the driveway without me, so we pretty much stayed in touch. Where does an eight year old go that they would need to call home to check in? I’m just askin.
I’m thankful that at the time, my tweens only had AOL instant messaging. I will admit to a bit of naiveté when it came to who they might be chatting with. I had to learn quickly. It wasn’t too hard to monitor, since only a handful of their friends even had internet. Oh, and there was the whole sharing the phone line thing. If the Girl couldn’t get her friend online because the mom was on the phone, she had to just get up and walk next door to do her gossiping. Parents are much more savvy today, as they should be. It didn’t take long for the bad guys to figure out how to get information from kids just wanting to talk about who likes who at school.
My youngest is really the one who grew up with the internet. I’m sure he doesn’t remember life without it. Luckily, he was an outdoorsy kind of kid, too. Remember, he’s the Skater. His social networking was usually done on our driveway where we had a half pipe. The girls would sit along the wall to watch the boys and giggle. No texting involved. If they wanted to know if Mike liked Jane, they would send Lisa over to ask Jeff. That’s how it was done just as recently as 5 years ago.
It wasn’t until the Skater was almost through high school that the whole online social networking thing took off. I have to admit, I’m not as savvy as today’s parents when it comes to teenagers on the internet. I didn’t have to protect my children from the predators that lurk through sites like that. Even as a grown up, I’m learning what to put out there and what to keep private. Other than the fact that I hate housework and spoil my dogs, that’s pretty much all anyone would find out about me.
My kids? Not so much. They are all over the Face Book thing. They have hundreds of friends. It took a while before the Skater accepted my friend request. Sheesh. He’ll friend a dude he met at the skate park but not the woman who gave birth to him? Without drugs?? Finally he did and now, now I get to know all. about. him. Sometimes, I’m not sure I want to know.
Face Book with your kids can be a good thing, I guess. It’s how I learned the Skater has a new girlfriend. He changed his status. Yeah. Oh, and the Marine and his Sunshine? They got a new kitten. I saw it on Face Book. My new grand-cat. The Girl got straight A’s on her report card.
Really, the kids do call from time to time. But I worry about the future and the ease of just putting news out there, one time, on Face Book, for everyone to see and being done with it. When we do talk on the phone, I don’t want to hear, “Didn’t you see that on Face Book? I posted it like three days ago. That’s old news.”
Maybe I’ll post that I won the lottery and wait for the calls to come rolling in.
I guess what I’m trying to say to the parents of today, let your children know that while Face Book is a fun way to stay connected, it doesn’t count toward meaningful conversation, checking in with your parents, or building relationships. I would also remind the kids that the best social networking is still done on the ball field or just playing outside.