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Occasionally, us kids know what we’re talking about. February 17, 2007

Posted by amberpeace in Uncategorized.
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Usually, when I’m dealing with teenagers, they are talking to me about their boy problems. Usually, my advice falls into the same line as the people who are older than me: boys are stupid, ignore them in high school, work on your calculus. Kissing a lot of them is probably not a good idea.

But, recently the conversations have been different. The topic? Internet access and social networking. In this situation, my advice is going to differ than most of the parents I talk to. Why? Because almost all of you are over the age of 30.

Now, that is a huge generalization, and now I’m going to have to break it down more specifically. Some of you are not over the age of 30. I’m fairly sure you aren’t parents, either. So this doesn’t apply to you. When I say over 30, I am not implying that you are computer illiterate. You’re bloggers and reading this, so I assume you can at least navigate the internet with competence.

The major difference between you and I is that I was using a computer for school in 2nd grade. I was instant msging at the age of 12. My high school teachers didn’t even think of teaching us to do our rough drafts in handwriting. In college, I’ve turned in at least one thing in by email in every class and quite a few of my classes have online discussions.

Pushing this further, I have to check my email about 10 times a day or I’m going to miss something that pertains to school or track. I am signed into MSN and AIM at all hours. The fact that I don’t own a cell is a huge social hindrance, because the need to call long distance is an all day issue. While it is that people made friends locally, and then they moved away, my generation is making friends 1/2 way across the world. For my parents generation, calling Cali is long distance. For me, Gina being in Poland is in no way a hindrance to communication.

Truth be told? I “met” my boyfriend by MSN.

I’m bringin this back to teenagers on the internet, I promise. The frustration with my kidren is that they want to be connecting to their friends and their friends friends. Which is really no problem, is it? My sister chatting to her church friends on Yahoo is not a problem. What is the issue is those crazy predetors out their on the internet. This, believe it or not, is a very easy problem to avoid. The social websites out there are working with law enforcements to keep children safe. The issue is that parents are not going over the website information sites. They don’t read the FAQs, the privacy info, and they don’t take use of the security features out there.

For example: Myspace profiles are automatically private if you are under the age of 16. Well, how can you make sure your daughter is putting in the age of 16? With something like Zephyr
Perhaps you could set up a deal like Pete over at Fiddley does with his 12 year old daughter.

Along with her cell phone, Megan (12, going on dangerous) also has her own domain name, friends-only blog and email address. In an effort to keep her safe, I set the site and email up with the explicit agreement that I would, on occasion, monitor her activity while respecting her privacy as much as possible. A girl’s got to be able to bitch about her parents to her friends without fear of reprimand or arranged marriage to a General Authority, after all.

Occasional monitoring means checking her blog for spammers, sex offenders, Republicans and other such deviants. It also means manually scanning her email from time to time for questionable messages, just to be sure she’s not sneaking around selling herself into Bosnian slavery without giving me my commission and stuff like that. Unless there is a questionable title, unrecognized sender/recipient or some other red flag, I don’t read the actual content of her correspondence.

The point of this very long post? Understand that your children are growing up with technology and social aspects that you never even dreamed up and that you don’t understand. Regardless of the crazy media hype, the internet is not that scary of a place if you aren’t in danger of getting a Darwin award. Don’t hover over your 15 year old daughter as she’s writing an email. It’s about as normal as calling them every 10 minutes when they are out with friends. Instead, maybe you should join a network yourself and learn how to use them.

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