Safety and closeness in today’s world — it’s not always easy. A recent news story of a 13-year-old girl murdered by someone she met on social media made me cringe, but then gave way to discussions with other moms.
Our family has always had a conservative approach to social media and all internet use. I regularly check history on the computers and am even more diligent when I finally decide they might be ready for social media. It’s not that I don’t trust our kids; rather, it’s that I don’t trust the world. Yes, kids will often test limits or feel that “it can’t happen to them,” but even when they are not looking, trouble has a way of seeking our kids and even us. So I watch. I listen. I check computers. And, I limit computer time. The old saying that “Nothing good happens after 11 p.m.” might be restated as “Too much time on computer invites trouble.”
But, as I was chatting with another mom, I had another realization. While I’ve been watching for potential problems, I have actually found another way to enjoy my kids. By noting what sites they are visiting, I find new interests they are developing. This can develop into a conversation about the interest, and gives us another connection. For instance, if I find a few searches about Ireland, I might bring that country up in conversation and discover that he is now fascinated by the country, its history, and culture. If I see that he has searched for information on ways to increase protein, I might expand on the conversation of a previous day when we were talking about nutrition.
Like most homeschoolers, we talk with our kids a lot. I know them well and know what they are studying and where their interests lie. I talk with them, listen to them, and have long discussions individually and all together. But, sometimes I’m not as aware what is more important, or a subject that they have just stumbled upon. I like that their computers can reveal even more to me.
Social media is another connecting format. I follow their postings and, yes, spot check messages too. They know I have an open-door policy to their networks and are fine with it, knowing I am not spying but rather listening in for their own safety.
But again, social media can reveal little nuances that I might have otherwise overlooked. Those quickly posted memes show their sense of humor, interests, and special thoughts. The posted comments are another way to get a sense of what my child is feeling or concentrating on at the moment.
Some might consider my style more invasive than necessary. Even my 17-year-olds can expect me to visit their sites and keep informed. And, it gives them a sense of comfort knowing that I am checking, while knowing that I am not attempting to run their lives. I think they have also realized how it shows such an interest in them as people. I am interested in them, in their interests, their thoughts, and their friends. I care about each of my children.
While I do encourage parents to keep close watch on computer usage for potential problems, I suggest that they also use this as a time to listen to your child. It might be the perfect opportunity to start a new conversation!