Parenting

Dear Well-Meaning But Ignorant Parents: Here’s What Your Teens Are Really Doing Online

Teenagers typically do not yet understand the importance of Internet safety. Along with the age-old feeling of invulnerability that adolescence has always carried, now there is an unprecedented and intimate access to a world wide community of strangers. So instead of driving too fast or sneaking out at night, your kids might be posting naked pictures on a website you’ve never heard of to people they’ve never met.

I know, I know. Your child would never do that! Let me tell you something: You. Don’t. Know. That. You know those tiny feelings you get every day but you cope nicely because you’re an adult? Feelings like insecurity, boredom, even the loneliness of being at home when your friends are all going out—well these feelings are massive to teenagers. A combination of hormones and inexperience create a veritable powder keg of unpredictable behavior. Insecurity might lead to seeking acceptance from strangers by posting a selfie and waiting for people to reblog, like or comment on it. Boredom might lead to extended conversations online with someone they’ve never met about deeply personal matters. Loneliness can lead to online sex. No, really. It can.

Please, please hear me, parents. I am not an outdated, irrelevant old person sitting on my metaphorical front lawn griping about “kids these days.” I spend more time with teenagers than I do with people my own age. And in many cases, I spend more time with your teenagers than even you do. I am begging you to give a crap about your kids. When I was a teenager myself, social media was just gaining popularity and my mom had my Myspace and Facebook password. I never sent a message, posted a picture or added a friend without her knowing it. It sounds extreme, but I’m safe today because of it. I can’t even count how many times I would have done something incredibly unsafe and irresponsible if not for the fact that I knew my mom was watching.

My success as an adult today can be blamed almost wholly on the fact that my parents were involved in my life. I could go on forever about the rising rate of teen suicides, sexual miscreance and drug abuse problems that can be traced back to beginnings in social media. These things are real. And if you don’t show up in your kid’s life and give a crap, maybe no one will.

That is all.

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Kayla Nicole Milam is a Jesus-loving newlywed and a high school English teacher in California who loves, among other things, rollercoasters. And picnics. And books. And chapstick. She looks forward to being a mams someday, and she’d love for you to visit her at her blog.

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