Big Mother is Watching…But Not That Closely

When my book club had finished discussing Esmeralda Santiago’s  Conquistadora  (general consensus: we expected more), the conversation turned to our children and our control over their Internet habits. In this circle of women, I discovered that I was the odd mother out.

I found out that most of my friends have their children’s computers locked down and tricked out with every kind of safety bell and whistle possible. In addition, many of them make sure that the computer is in a common room of the house, so that they can further control the activity. I have heard this advice before and can certainly understand the concern we have for the safety of our children. There are some freaks out there and we want to put up as much of a protective barrier as possible. Was I not creating enough of a roadblock? Was I the “horrible” mother? The one who forgets to sign the class trip slips, forgets snacks on snack day… the one who doesn’t protect her kids from crazed Internet predators? For a moment, I wondered, but then I remembered that everyone has a different parenting style.

When our children, now 18 and 12, first started emailing, we did have their incoming communications forwarded to our email addresses, but eventually we stopped, and beyond that, they have a very minimum of policing.  Did my son, at the age of 11 or so, Google “Boobs” and come up with more than he bargained for? Yes, but he survived, unscathed.

My husband and I spend a lot of time with our children, we talk, we listen, and we talk. Since they were little we have had the conversations: “You know never to give your address or personal information to anyone online, right?” ” You know never to meet anyone who pretends to be your friend on Facebook, right?” To which they respond, “Duh, Mom!!”

They are not perfect, they certainly do some stupid stuff, but they have some sense.  I was an only child, the focus of my parents’ lives. They knew my friends, they knew where I was, and they learned how to trust me to make the right decisions. And you know what? Most of the time I did. Yes, those were different Internet-free times, but much of this is about trust and letting go. You try to set the ground rules for life and they pray that they learn how to implement them. They need to see things and learn what to filter out on their own, it’s a survival skill.  I understand protection, I’m a parent, after all, but I trust my children on this. Call me crazy, but, knock on wood, so far it’s working.

Every parent needs to follow his or her gut when it comes to these things. If 24/7 surveillance is what you’re feeling, you’ve got to go for that. It just doesn’t feel like the right thing for my family. However, were I too see any particularly odd behavioral patterns or weirdness in my kids, and suspected that it had anything to do with their online activities; I would be the first to go into Special Ops mode. May that time never come.

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