I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for BGCA. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating
When I found out I was having a little boy thirteen years ago, I was so excited. I thought, “Heck yeah, I won’t have to worry about creepers or all those crazy things you have to worry about when you have a little girl!”
I was naive. Laugh away. I had just turned 20, and I had no idea. Styles might actually be the first newborn baby I had held since my baby cousin was born when I was 12. And things were different back then too. I know thirteen years wasn’t all that long ago, but let me put this into perspective for you:
- Cell phones still had greyscale screens and were just coming out with fun ringtones.
- The internet still operated on dial-up.
- Pop-up ad blockers didn’t exist yet, so God help you if your husband was addicted to porn.
- AOL was still a really big deal.
- Text messages? What’s that?
I’m sure there are more tech advances, but you get the gist, right? So tween and teen boys still had pagers, and the biggest thing you had to worry about was that they were driving responsibly with their friends and that they stayed away from drugs and alcohol.
With the advent of smartphones and super fast internet, things certainly have changed. One of my biggest fears as the parent of a teenage boy is that he becomes a good, well rounded, successful man, who knows how to treat women. I have to help him protect his eyes, his heart, and his head in order to make that happen. I’m not saying I want to put him in a bubble and protect him. I think that everyone needs to test the limits in order to make mistakes and learn from their experiences, but what can I do in this day and age, as a parent with full connectivity, to protect my son?
I don’t even know where to begin, to be honest.
I’ve been taking Zumba classes at our local Boys & Girls Club of America, and it reminded me that there’s still a place where kids go to hang out and be kids. Crazy, I know.
I happened upon their #CyberSafe website, and found a CyberSmart Parent Quiz. I’m young and hip. I’m well connected. I thought for sure I’d knock this little quiz out of the park. Sadly, no. I didn’t even come close to knocking it out of the park. Apparently I need to do a better job protecting my dude from the big, bad internet wolf. Think you’re smart? Check the quiz out then tell me how you smart you really are.
So here are a few things you should think about if you have a teen boy under your roof.
1. They’re smarter than you think they are
Your son knows more than you think he knows. I was thinking today about when I was in 8th grade, and I remember a boy named Dale telling me he hoped I never lost my butt. He also showed me some inappropriate things, and this was long before the advent of widespread internet usage. This was like in-the-flesh inappropriate things. Now our sons have access to the internet where they can do what Styles did recently, and search the internet for “women boobs”. Yes, that really happened. Thankfully, it was on my iPad and I found it and nipped it in the bud. He has never given me any reason to think he was anything other than innocent, so this was a complete shock to me. They are way smarter than we think they are.
2. They are well connected
Styles has a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, and a smart TV. He can find pretty much anything he wants at any time and I wouldn’t know about it, because I’m busy hanging out on my own computer, doing my own thing, at my own time. What kind of gadgets did you have when you were a teen? I’ll tell you what I had. I had a pocketful of dimes so I could call my mom from the payphone at the mall library, and an Encyclopedia Britannica collection. That’s what I had. Our kids lack nothing by way of information. They don’t have to wait to go to the library to find whatever they are looking for, they have the information at their fingertips. Just because they’re well connected, doesn’t mean that you can’t regulate what they see. You just have to be even more connected than they are.
3. Bullying extends past the school yard
I had no idea that popularity was still a big deal. I really thought that it was suddenly super cool to be a nerd, but that’s not the case. Actually, it might be worse now than it was before. When I was a big, fat middle school dork, I could leave school and go home to hang out with my parakeets, mint green bicycle, and The Counting Crows “August & Everything After” on an endless loop. Now, kids have Instagram and Facebook and a multitude of other apps that we don’t even know about, that have options for “likes” and “double taps” and comments and other craziness that tweens and teens base their popularity on.
This popularity contest also extends to bullying, which I personally think is a bit of a strong word for “the jerkwad at school who feels like he has to pick on everyone”. But now that same jerkwad can get at you while you’re home on the weekends and on the toilet checking your Instagram account, and even while you’re sitting at church surfing the web while your pastor talks about the importance of purity of the heart. You have to keep up with your teenage boy, check his moods, have checkins with him regularly and let him know you’re on his side, that you care about what happens to him, and that you’re there if he ever needs someone to talk to. Boys have a tendency to minimize their feelings and are much less vocal than girls. Having regular conversations with your son will make it easier for him to talk to you when he has something really difficult to say.
4. He still needs you
Our tween and teen boys play the tough role and act like they don’t still need their mommies and daddies. The truth is, they do still need us. We’ve just graduated from booboo kisser to available ear, counselor, and pride booster. Our kids don’t stop needing us when they tell us that they don’t need us anymore. I think that’s when they need us the most. It’s so easy to sweep our teen kids under the rug, but they still need our love, our guidance, and the same watchful eye that we gave them when they were clumsy toddlers.
Especially with their connectivity levels, kids need boundaries, they need for you to have access, they need for you to know what they are up to so that if they stray, you know about it, and can steer them back in the right direction. If you think you’re on the up and up with technology and keeping up with your son, you might be surprised that you know less than you think you do.
5. Keeping your child safe is not a violation of their privacy
I hear this argument over and over and over again. “Trust your child”. “Going through their phone is a violation of their privacy and rights!” Um, no. If my child lives under a roof that I pay for, eats food that I purchase for him, and is in my legal custody, it is my responsibility to teach him, to guide him, and to make sure that he is doing things appropriate for his age. What those things are is at your discretion as your child’s parent. Simply put, it is your responsibility to know what your children are up to, especially with the world shrinking through the widespread use of technology. It might not seem fair to your teen that you know their business, but you should always keep a list of their log ins and passwords. And make sure you keep up with technology by visiting the Boys and Girls Clubs of America #CyberSafe website.
If you have any questions, you can ask one of the #CyberTribe members, who are teens themselves, by visiting the CyberTribe website and asking these experts your important questions. Submitting a question is easy, and their answers are always informative. I asked if they felt having their parents go behind them and know what they’re doing online felt like an invasion of privacy. The answer was, in short, that it’s not always their favorite thing, but that they understand the importance of having parents who care about keeping them safe.
See? Can’t argue with an expert.
I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for BGCA. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating. #MC #sponsored