As a writer whose career revolves around the Internet, I think of myself as relatively savvy with social media. I know about the bullying that can happen on Twitter, the oversharing concerns on Facebook and even the surprisingly high potential to accidentally find porn on Instagram. I know about parental controls and privacy settings. In that regard, I feel somewhat prepared for the things my 10- and 12-year-olds might encounter as they become increasingly digitally social.
But as a mother, I also know that no matter how much time I spend on the Internet, my kids will probably always be more savvy than I could ever hope to be.
I know I'm not alone in my concerns. As Paramount's movie "Men, Women & Children" illustrates, many of us struggle with how to parent around social media. There are some moms who monitor every keystroke, some who allow limitless online freedom, and every shade of gray in between. The film really makes you wonder if it's more dangerous to wield total control over our kids' modern social lives and risk pushing them away, or to trust them to navigate the uncharted territories alone. In an exclusive clip (below), Jennifer Garner talks about exactly these issues.
My friend was asked to give a presentation at her local high
school recently to educate parents about social media apps popular with teens.
While preparing her slideshow, she asked around among our mom friends to make
sure she wasn't forgetting anything.
The conversation she started about teens on social
media quickly brought into focus just how scary parenting Internet-savvy kids is. At first, parents named
sites and apps like Tumblr, Vine and Snapchat—programs I'm marginally
familiar with but don't personally use. Then, some of the moms (mostly with
kids just slightly older than mine) started rattling off words that sounded
like a foreign language. Wanelo? Yik Yak? Omegle? Kick, Yo, Whisper, ooVoo,
I'm not going to lie. I started to panic.
How can I keep my kids safe on social media when I can't
even keep up with the names of all the new social media
One thing is certain: The most dangerous thing we can do is remain uninformed. ... We need to make sure that we're communicating with them at least as much as the online world is.
It's an old joke that, at some point, every teen
throughout human history has thought their parents were hopelessly out of
touch, often shouting angrily, "You don't remember what it's like to be my
age!" The joke, of course, is that the kids aren't taking into
consideration that we were ALL teens once.
However, we Gen-Xers might be parenting the very first
generation of kids who can exclaim, "You don't know what it's like to be
my age!" and, at least partially, be right.
Sure, some of the struggles of peer pressure and puberty
hormones are fairly universal. I can relate to my kids when it comes to that
stuff, and (despite what they might think) I do know what it's like to
be their age. But I was raised in a time when the cutting edge of connectivity
was an analog pager, when boys had to call you on a landline and risk your dad answering the
phone. Sexting wasn't a thing. Anonymous cyberbullying didn't exist. WE DIDN'T
EVEN HAVE EMAIL. In some ways, we really don't know what it's like to be
One thing is certain: The most dangerous thing we
can do is remain uninformed. No matter what degree you consider yourself either
familiar with or overwhelmed by the current digital world, like it or not, it's
the world in which our kids are living out their childhoods. And whether you
think it's scary and threatening or simply the next step in the evolution of
social interaction, we need to make sure that we're communicating with them at
least as much as the online world is.
I have to admit, I'm still a little panicked. For now I'm
making sure to discuss social media with my kids. I ask them about their online
experiences and try to stay on top of what they're interested in, where they're
e-hanging out. I realize I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, and I know they might not
always be so open and honest about what they're up to. But do you know how I
was a teen once, too.
remember what it was like to be their age.
So, how do
you deal with parenting in the digital age? Do you feel knowledgeable about
where your kids are posting, sharing and connecting?
"Men, Women and Children" debuts on Digital HD and On Demand on December 16.