Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What's a mother to do?

In today's Washington Post a mother fret's over how much to snoop on her children while they are on the internet.

Is monitoring your kids' Internet activity -- say, reviewing the Web sites they've visited -- a violation of their rights or a paradigm of parental responsibility? At what age is this Net nannyism appropriate? When kids are just learning to surf the World Wide Web, certainly, but it's not as if you can stop worrying once the training wheels are off. One mother told me she discreetly checks the porn sites in her teenage son's history folder to make certain they're not too extreme.

The first, of course, is keeping kids safe and away from harmful material. But intruding on the grounds of safety is the easy call. The harder one is deciding what expectation of privacy children ought to have in their online lives. I cringed, too, but her approach may be realistic; teenage boys will be teenage boys, and they're not just looking at centerfolds these days.

I cringed when I read that too, but for other reasons. I'm sorry, but have parents gotten that stupid that they question the obvious? The internet is NOT private and you're not snooping. Anything that a child writes could be read by hundreds of others. And the parent is worried about whether they should read it too? Good grief!

Further the internet has a long memory. Just because you delete something from your blog or email, it doesn't mean it is gone forever. Others could have copied it and there is always the internet archive. The best internet filter is a parent. It is your responsibility. If you're worried about what your child may see or do on the internet then your child shouldn't even be on the internet until they have been properly trained by YOU and you're confident they will abide by the rules. That takes time and a commitment to sit and work WITH your teen together. Setting them loose on the internet and trusting an internet filter to protect them is a recipe for disaster.

Raising teens is not difficult. What is difficult is sacrificing a parent's personal ambitions and goals to do the job fully. Parents want the benefits of a postitive relationship with their teens without laying the foundational work that goes into it. That begins waaaaay before the teen years (or even the tween years begin). If a parent is there for their children when they're young, the young will be with them when they are old. Snooping won't be necessary.

We have raised a generation of kids who are orphans in their own homes. They live under the same roof but not under the same authority. And we have a generation of parents afraid to say "no" and willing to let others parent for them.

I've not done a perfect job at raising my children. We have our struggles. But thankfully I don't have to read my daughter's diary. She already shares her heart with me. And because she does I don't feel the need to read it.

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