I always thought growing up that I would be the “cool” mom. You know… the mom that doesn’t torture my kids with lectures longer than 20 minutes, the mom that doesn’t have ridiculous rules that were created for the generation before me. I would be the mom that was “with the times.” I would let my children find their own way. I would give them space to explore who they wanted to be and let them make their own mistakes. Then I became a mom, at the ripe age of 21, and I developed Adolescent Amnesia by Ignorance. I’m no doctor but this condition is real! I know it is real because as I sit here 13 years later I can attest to the suffering of this horrific disease. Someone has robbed my body and my mind. While I was floating on the clouds of denial she has been lecturing my children for hours. She has set rules and consequences in place that are not only outrageously un-cool, but totally outdated! Thank God for my husband and his healing powers that have brought me back tothe earthly reality of 2017. Yes girls… I am about to say those dreaded words… better described in The Blind Side when Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) utters these same words to Sean (Tim McGraw) and he responds with “how did those words taste coming out of your mouth?” and Leigh Anne says “like vinegar.” Like Sean, my husband was right. Being the majority rule over the children, due to my working very part-time, this confession was a bit jarring to me.
Let me back up and give you the scenario…
It is not out of the norm for my four kiddos and I to eat dinner without my husband. He is working most nights until 7:00pm and sometimes as late as 10:00pm depending on the day. It has been one of those days that it seemed like everything was taking twice as long as it should and before I know it, the 30 minute count down to bedtime has begun and the two youngest ones have yet to have a bath. I delegate my teenage boys to put away the dinner remains and clean up the kitchen/dining room area. I put the two “littles” in the tub and realize I’ve forgotten to grab the package of diapers I bought at the store that day. I run downstairs to retrieve it and my 13 year old abruptly shuts off the music they are playing on his phone as I enter the room. “Why did you shut off the music?” …blank stare and shoulder shrug…“It sure looked like you were enjoying it”…more blank staring… “Could it be because it’s something you aren’t supposed to be listening to?” …another shoulder shrug… “Give it to me.” I hold out my hand and he reluctantly turns over the phone. As I begin the lecture of “how many times do I have to tell you two that crappy (aka explicit) music is not allowed in this house” I feel the phone vibrate.
Now to bring you up to speed, everyone in the house is aware of the crappy music rule, as well as the no social media rule. They have been caught and punished for it twice before (obviously those consequences made a huge impact right?!). I look at the phone and was slapped in the face with a Kik message (app not allowed) from queen heart heart crown emoji (chatting with strangers also not allowed)… I turn the phone to face him “Who is this?” (he may have messed his pants based on the look on his face… and meanwhile the “can’t tell a lie to save his life” 15 year old is behind him trying to look busy and avoiding eye contact at all costs). I open the phone and can slowly feel the blood draining from my hands, my heart is in my ears and my stomach has that same feeling as when I tried to be a showoff and ride the Gravitron more times than all of the boys in the 7th grade. Message after message, girl after girl, site after site… my beautiful, intelligent, innocent son was breaking just about every rule he had agreed to obey when I gave him this miniature computer we call a cell phone. They are now both standing there, silent, watching me tap and scroll and gasp and turn every color of the rainbow. I am so engrossed, and mortified, that I have forgotten they are even there. That was until I open the message log with balls is life basketball basketball basketball emoji. What little blood I have left in my body floods my face and I look my 15 year old in the eyes before I even read the rest of the screen “YOU ARE ON HERE TOO??” Here is where I lose it. I mean “confiscating all technology devices, ripping power cords out of the walls, making them scrub the base boards” losing it!
I lectured them, for the third time, on how dangerous their activity was. How we try to protect them from images that will be burned in their brains and affect their views on women, sex and relationships for the rest of their long (and now miserable) lives. How likely it was that this supposed 14 year old “hottie” was in reality a 55 year old pedophile who now owned those shirtless bathroom selfies they sent him and what he could possibly be doing with them. How easy it is to track an IP address and find out their real names, where they live and information that could be used to harm them and their family.
This all happened on a Thursday. I know this because I texted my husband an FYI message that their lives were over and we could talk about it when he got home. He works very long hours Thursday – Saturday. I also work very long hours on Saturdays, so it was not until Sunday morning that I was actually able to fill him in on what I had discovered. He hummed and nodded in all the right places as I relayed to him the horrifying tale while he was putting on his church shoes. I noted his lack of verbal response as a pat on the back for the consequences I had bestowed upon our boys for their moment of moronic behavior and managed to get caught up in the rush to get to church before the worship team exited the stage. The conversation was lost and my mind was swept away by the wailing of an angry toddler. Later that night my husband says to me “You know, I’m not really sure that forbidding all social media is right.” (now I am the one facing him with the blank stare) “I mean, they are gonna do it anyway… yada yada… do we really want them sneaking around… yada yada… shouldn’t we be teaching them how to use it… yada yada… It IS 2017 after all…” Something was wrong with my ears. I could see his mouth moving but the sound of his voice kept going in and out… maybe I’m getting sick… I should really see a doctor… maybe this was all a bizarre nightmare… bite my lip… nope I’m awake… oh that’s right he’s talking to me… ok focus Kara…. I respond with “It’s a big black hole of no return… they aren’t ready… their brains are running solely on video games and hormones… look how quickly they were sucked into inappropriate behavior… it’s not safe… they broke the rules and I punished them now you want to not only take them off punishment but you want to hand them the keys to the once forbidden cyber kingdom??” Conversation over. I win... “the grounding stands”… in the famous words of every mother on the planet… “because I say so.”
About a week later I was rambling on about how busy things had gotten and that I HAD to make time to write and my husband casually says “maybe you could write about teens and social media… and I haven’t seen you post anything lately about your relationship with God.” If this man knows anything about me it is these two facts: 1. I am a researchoholic. 2. I love Jesus. The seed was planted and I was completely oblivious to his hidden agenda. Genius! I would help out other moms, post an amazingly well-written and informative article that would be sure to go viral AND prove him wrong all in one day! Score!
Oh the sense of humor my beloved Jesus has. My stance on the topic couldn’t have been more wrong, and my husband couldn’t have been more right. This intricate, limitless, complex tool known as the Internet is only a threat to the minds of our children if we attempt to keep it locked away. It may be a new day, a new age, a new generation but this fact most definitely remains the same: parents will set rules and children will break them. Simply labeling something as forbidden makes it irresistibly enticing. The only way to ensure that our kids are safe on the web is to talk about it, share it with them, teach them the appropriate ways to use it and consistently check in on their activity. The struggle is real ladies… and I’m right here with you!
Read more on Developing Safe Inter-Habits: Social Media Guidelines for Kids & Teens