I'm sitting at my kitchen table and I hear a ping, the one that indicates that someone has received a text. I check my devices and nothing appears. I look around and see my son's mini-iPad. Wow. Didn't expect that one. Let me just say that I can't share what I saw without using @!#$@!.
Well, aren't we "on-top-of-it" parents. My son didn't have a cell phone (because we thought he was too young). But he did have a mini-iPad that he bought with his own snow-shoveling money. Yet, because we didn't realize the capability of an iPad--little did we know that he could download texting and calling apps to turn his iPad into a full-fledged phone--we never established any rules.
I was completely stunned by the text I saw. I think I have always been a little naïve about my children. I remember years ago when my then 16-year-old told me that she had been somewhere where the kids were "crazy." Not knowing exactly what crazy meant, but clearly knowing that probing would mean the end of the conversation, I asked, "Did you feel uncomfortable?" So I asked a good question, but the answer shocked me. "No. I've gotten used to it."
WHAT? You mean that wasn't the first time? How could that be? Didn't I know where she was at all times? Don't I know everything about all my kids?
The big, disappointing answer is NO. Apparently, I have never been invited into my kids' heads and hearts in the way I expected and believed would happen. The thoughts and experiences they share are edited for parental viewing.
That first time was the worst; finding out that the picture in my head was more like a Facebook version of my life. The reality was unnerving. They don't tell me everything. All I kept wondering was where had I gone wrong and how could I ensure their safety if I didn't know everything about them.
Of course, when I was a teenager, I didn't tell my parents everything. But I believed that my relationship with my kids was different, better, more honest. (Don't we all.)
Over time I settled into my new reality. I could try to keep apace of the new social media site and the new apps (and I do), but in the end, since my kids would likely share only a small part of their lives, I would need to become a voice (a nagging voice) that would be heard even in my absence.
Going back to my son's text. Do I worry about the dangers lurking in my children's devices? Predators. Cyberbullies. Identity thieves. Porn. Of course I worry. But I no longer believe that my efforts can protect him from all the danger that lives within.
Instead, I just keep on talking and preaching and warning, with no certainty of the outcome, but a bit of nagging hope.
Susan Borison is the Publisher and Editor In Chief of Your Teen Media. To learn about parenting in the age of technology, register for Your Teen Technology Webinar.