Friday, November 5, 2010

i have been thinking about this post for too long

and how to share it without seeming preachy.

but i can't.

no matter which way i approach it, i sound like i am screeching from the top of a well worn soapbox.

so be it.

parents, you need to monitor what your teens are writing on the internet.
they may be great kids, they are LIKELY great, respectful, doting, funny, quirky...but something happens to some of these kids when they get behind a keyboard.

they get stupid.

i have spent a good amount of time reading everything i can get my eyes on about teens and the internet and how they process and behave with it.
and the information is discouraging.
from the choice of photos they choose to represent themselves to how they express themselves in describing their adventures and their frustrations, there is no filter on what they are saying, no sense of responsibility in their understanding of the power of what they are saying.

now, out of respect for the kids involved in what set me off , i am choosing *not* to drag out the specific details of what happened.
we dealt with it immediately and hopefully as much as it applied to our family and need for respect and taking responsibility for one's actions.

what i will say is that what i came home to find a few weeks ago was a heartbreaking and horrifying combination of anti semitic crap, homophobic bullying and misogynistic comments.
i mean, why just mess around with one of these topics when you can drag out all three and be really special.

the worst part?
how little of this was seen as a bad choice or innapropriate behaviour on anyone's part.
well, aside from the anti gay taunts....but that is mainly because of the tragic stories that have been made so public in the media over the last month. and it certainly did not stop anyone involved.

i have been astounded on several levels.

one, that i was the first parent to notice that this was going on.
i was late, very late to the party. and i consider myself someone who is on top of these things. i mean, i am, if i wasn't? i would be dealing with a whole other set of issues i do not even wish to imagine.
even so, i was a week late for when most of this started...later even on some of the anti semitic stuff ( to be honest, i can't even go there quite yet...but i have everything screen saved for when i need to. yep. i do.)

how can you not pay attention to what your children, because at 14 and 15 they are still children, are putting out there on public pages? nothing i found was private. why are parents NOT monitoring what their kids are doing?

secondly, why are our teens so freaking oblivious to the bare basics of kind behaviour?
cruel. the crap that is going on is just cruel.
i have started to  pay attention, over the last few weeks, to more than just my kid...because i really care for many of the kids i am surrounded by...and i am shocked by how callous they are with the reputations of others. and how quickly the tide turns. and how adult they are in their condemnations of each other, while at the same time being so blatantly naive at the repercussions their words and actions have.

the disconnect i am seeing between who these kids are in real life compared to who they are when they become "big girl/boy on facebook" (alternate with msn, twitter or any other form of social media you choose ) is shameful.

and i mean it.
the same words the nuns used way back in high school any time we met with boys off the school property or kissed at a dance.
i only WISH it was so simple these days.

i have not felt older in my entire life than when i started to become cognizant of how these young adults are presenting themselves to the world.
they have access to everything...and yet can not see outside their tiny universe...or predict the kind of image they are creating in the bigger picture.

what the hell?

this is a total rant. i have about 10 studies i read to go into the details of why teens today behave the way they do on the internet...but you can find them as well.

i want to know how to change this.

we have started, a little bit.
life has been blissful without facebook, texting and msn these last two weeks.
without our teen's fb, msn and texting i should say.
he has rejoined our lives and guess what? we are thrilled to have him back;). if only for a parentally induced amount of time. i know it is temporary, and that this is likely a battle we will need to keep ready for, for the next long while.
opting out limits exposure, but not the core problem. and that is what has me so upset. 

there was a "thing" going around twitter last night...what would you tweet to your 16 year old self today.
most of the answers were sweet, nostalgic, humerous...innocuous in their naivete, really.

if you fast forward 20 years and ask these kids to tweet themselves, about the topics they are dealing with every day now, the answers would be so very different...hyper sexualization of themselves and their peers, homophobia, racism...they will be mortified when they look back.
not because these subjects existed, they have been around forever and deserve acknowledgement and discussion, but because of how blatantly the very worst elements of these topics are being worn as badges of honour.

it is just backwards.

i hope they are mortified. i hope that somehow, along this track they are on, in the desensitized social settings they find themselves these days, that somehow they begin to wake up to the ignorance they are so quick to share in a post and a status update.

and i so wish i did not feel so very, very old.

and that somehow i have failed very badly at my job as a parent and a role model.

( i have no image to accompany this post because...well...i just don't have one that adequately reflects how frustrated i am)


Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for writing his. I am sorry that your your family learned a very hard lesson, but know that you did not fail. This post alone means that you "passed". You found the posts and did something about it. Would other parents? You shared, and I am grateful for that. I hope they are mortified too. I think your teens (involved or not)will be.

nelly said...

i don't even know what to say ( ! ) .

i think teachers and parents are not having an important conversation about empathy and how to teach it properly and instill it in everyone.
if you're compassionate and empathetic, you're not competing for attention or popularity - which is what 80% of social media activity really for kiddies.

we also encourage sarcasm and snappy cynicism from an early age w/ some of the things we give them to read and watch.

these comments are based on the observations i've made working with a group 12-17 in a nfp that raises money for HIV+ kids in S. Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Congo. Kids learn crafts, raise money, travel to those places, build clean water wells near villages, learn about microloans and quite literally lay the foundation for community schools. some of these 14-15 year old do not have facebook accounts and don't text often. Those that come back from their overseas trips are extremely different - they inspire those around them to be better, even peeps like me almost twice their age.

I just think we have our priorities screwed up all around, and maybe back to basics would be step no. 1.

joining in, no matter how "late" you are is already a sign that you're a top notch parent Ang. I just feel poor for the children with parents that aren't joining in at all.

all the best :)

Sara said...

there is something to be said for being unplugged. computers make it easy to say things we would never say in real life. parents aren't parenting enough. they worry about being friends, confidants, or they're jut too damn busy. i hope the pendulum swings back towards parenting instead of expecting kids to raise themselves.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a great post, especially for a teacher to read! Thank you for putting this out there. First, you are a great parent because you know, whether later or sooner, you know and that there is the crunch of the problem. Because as a teacher of teens, this is something I know. These kids don't just "know" how to be good, how to behave, be empathetic, how to edit themselves or see outside of their little world. They are taught these skills, at school and at home and most teachers don't teach it because they are over burdened, too busy or burnt out and parents don't teach it because many are too busy, too scared to have conflict, too tired, too naive, too innocent of what is going on out there. You are one of the good ones. People need to talk to their kids, be involved, ask questions. It is our responsibility to see these kids on the right path or we need to be very scared of the future. Good for you. You are doing exactly the right thing. Great post.

Denise Nielsen said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post. My kids are too young still, but I see some of the things young family members post and it astounds me to see some of the angst and anger and stupidity that gets posted online for the world to see. We should be teaching out kids that respect for others is important and that it doesn't stop just because it's said online. You have given me food for thought as I navigate the next few years with my pre-teens.