I remember growing up in the 1980’s. As teenagers, our parents thought we were the worst of all generations before us. They did not understand our music, rock ‘n roll and hair bands. Talking about hair, they did not like the way we dressed. Our hair was too poofy our makeup too wild. We spent countless hours at the mall trying to be material girls. We wasted gobs of time trying to get to the next level in Pong, Space Invaders, and Frogger on our Atari’s. We traded in our records for a large boom box with a tape deck. We dubbed tapes off of other friends tapes off of other friends tapes instead of listening to what our parents listened to on the record player or radio in the living room. Kids were rebellious, times were changing, and parenthood was hard.
As a parent of teenagers, I look back and wish times were a little simpler. We have less control and no guidelines. How much computer time should we allow our teens to have? How do we enforce that? How do we implement parental controls when we need our teens to help set them up? How do we monitor what they are doing when they know more about computers than us? I think that this is probably one of the biggest generation technology parenting gaps that has ever been and probably will ever be. At least our children will know what to do with their children because they grew up with the internet. From experience they will know from their childhood all the things that we don’t know now.
How do we know what to do? How much computer time is too much? My teens now do their homework on their computers. Taking away their computers is like taking away their pencils and paper. Is it good for them to spend all the time that they can on computers so they are prepared to use them in future careers? It is extremely hard to be hypervigelent with our teens use of the Internet without sitting next to them the whole time they are on it. This also is hard when they are at the stage in life where they want to be independent more than anything. If we have no reason not to trust them should we treat them like they are untrustworthy??
I remember as a young child finding my dad’s girlie magazines and showing them to my friends. They were in our house. We don’t have that option of keeping it out of our house if we don’t want it there anymore. My oldest daughter was exposed to porn in middle school when our previous pastor’s daughter showed it to her on a computer in our own house. Who would have thought?
What about cell phones? Back in my day, we had to talk on a phone tethered by a cord on the wall. There was no privacy. Now teens can talk anywhere with complete privacy about anything they want. If they wanted to send or receive naked pictures of someone, it is a click away. Who would ever know?
Now as far as music goes, the options are limitless there as well. If I wanted to buy a parental advisory CD as a teen I would have to go to the music store and show them my id. Once again, anything can be downloaded or listened to and I wouldn’t even know. How do you become proactive in monitoring that?
What about school shootings and violence? Back in my time there were a few kids that would call in bomb threats when they wanted the day off. I assume that doesn’t happen all that much anymore with caller id. Instead there are school shootings. Do you know how scary it is to send your child off to school after something like that happens?? Yesterday I received a letter from the principal of my children’s high school stating that there was an incident where a student was talking about bringing a gun to school. The authorities were called into the school to investigate. So, I sit here and worry. Worry about the things I can’t control. I wonder if I am doing a good job as a parent. Is anyone really? I don’t know what the hell I am doing parenting the modern teen. Does anyone? We are dealing with issues that our experienced parents wouldn’t even be able to give us advice about.
On the flip side, it is a great time to be a parent. We have webmd for every bump, scratch, and sniffle. There are online support groups for any parenting issue. There is countless free advice for practically any parenting problem from getting stains out of clothes, potty training, to extra math tutorials at the tips of our fingers. Maybe it would have helped my parents raise us when they had 4 teens in the house at the same time. My brother could’ve gotten diagnosed with autism earlier, maybe would have had early intervention therapy. My mom could’ve joined online support groups and wouldn’t have had to parent an autistic child totally alone finding out what worked through trial and error.
Ah, these are the best of times and worst of times for parenting. I am doing the best I can.