I was a senior in high school when I let the boy I adored take
naked Polaroid photos of me. He had convinced me Polaroid was the way to go since it had no
film requiring a visit to the 24-hour photo printers. And at the time, I fully bought
into that logic. It never even occurred to me that we shouldn’t be taking these photos. I
wanted him to have this ever-present reminder of me.
I wanted to give him what he asked for.
I was there, years later, when those Polaroid’s were destroyed—the same day we jointly decided any sexual relationship between the two of us
had come to an end. But I trusted him then, and I still do today, when he told
me he had never shown those photos to anyone else. That they were private,
between just he and I.
And when I think about how technology has completely changed the
landscape we were once playing on with an old Polaroid camera, I realize even
more just how lucky I really was.
I have often said that if the technology that exists today were
around when I was a teenager, I would have gotten myself into a lot of trouble.
Don’t get me wrong, I was a good kid. I got straight A's, was heavily involved
in school organizations, held down a job and didn’t have my first drink until I
was in college. But I was still a kid. And for as many good choices as I made,
there were a handful of questionable ones to counteract them. I was a mess of hormones
and angst and illogical thinking. My social media pages would have been packed
full of deeply personal details, and my phone undoubtedly would have been used
to send the nudies
I eschew as an adult.
These shifts in technology have brought a lot of great advancements, but they have also introduced very adult decisions to children long before they are ready.
I am thankful every single day that I grew up in a world that had
not yet been infiltrated by Facebook and video messaging.
Then, I look at my daughter, who is nearly 2 years old and destined to
grow up in a world far different from the one I did. And I know, beyond a
shadow of a doubt, that I will do whatever it takes to protect her from that
world and usher her into it slowly—hopefully slowly enough that she can avoid
some of the major missteps we are constantly hearing about today.
The Internet has become a place for online bullying and phones have
become a resource for images that could very easily be labeled as child porn.
Young girls seem to be doing more and more sexually, at ages when I myself
hadn’t even yet kissed a boy. Everything has been desensitized, and our kids
seem to be intent upon keeping up with whatever everyone else is doing. The hookup
culture has them believing their sexuality is a bargaining chip, not a deeply
intimate piece of who they are. These shifts in technology have brought a lot
of great advancements, but they have also introduced very adult decisions to
children long before they are ready.
And for that reason alone, I will absolutely spy on my daughter’s
tech use, whenever the day comes that I deem she is ready for the
responsibility of operating that tech in the first place.
Of course, I won’t call it spying. She will know from day one that
privacy does not exist between us when it comes to whatever it is she does
online or with her phone. Apps exist already today that allow parents to
monitor all text messages and calls made from their children’s phones—you can
have the information downloaded directly to your computer. I will absolutely be
taking advantage of that. But I also plan to confiscate tech each night, because
no teenager needs access to her phone after bedtime. And I will be “friends”
with each of her online personas, as well as having access to her online
passwords and accounts. If she has a problem with that, she doesn’t need to
have them at all.
To me, it isn’t spying—it’s parenting.
Maybe that sounds harsh to some, but I just truly believe there are
far too many opportunities for kids to get in trouble with today’s technology.
Isn’t it our responsibility as parents to monitor that? To ensure they are
using the tech responsibly?
If my daughter wants privacy from me, I will happily give her a
diary. She can write whatever she wants in those pages, and I will promise
never to look. But privacy will not extend to what she does online or with her
phone. Because it is my job to protect her—and that means not throwing
her to the wolves and expecting her to know how to handle herself right out the
I am sure there will be a graduated process with which I allow her
to maintain more and more power over her tech. I certainly don’t plan to
continue spying on my college age daughter, and I have no doubt I will be more
involved in what she is doing at age 14 than at 17. At some point, you have to
let them go and trust (hope and pray) that the lessons you have taught them
will stick. But how do you even go about teaching those lessons if you aren’t
monitoring what they are encountering in the first place?
To me, it isn’t spying—it’s parenting. So much has changed in the last 10 years, I can only imagine how much more will shift in the next 10. So while we still have a
long way to go before this is an issue in our house, I’m
not afraid of being the parent when it comes to tech use. I’m not afraid of
being the watchful eye, making sure she isn’t getting into trouble or behaving
in a manner that is different from how I raised her.