The social media revolution caught the world by storm, and its lure has been felt by several generations. Kids and their parents have joined up, but neither group seems happy about the other being there. It’s hard to gauge which is greater: parents’ fear of their kids ruining their lives and consorting with pedophiles and the like, or their kids’ embarrassment at seeing their parents intrude on territory where they have no business being. Either way, the sentiment is: “Please, make it stop.”
The young whippersnappers feel this is their territory, their little world, and those old farts just don’t understand it. This is true. The online world of today operates under different rules than the older generations are used to (just watch with glee how daddy flips out when his first YouTube video gets a comment from TheAryanKnight full of helpful insight on race relations in America). Yes, it’s a brave new world, and old guys and gals are struggling to get used to it, especially as it relates to their children. However, if I would tell parents one thing, it’s this: You’ve got to be on Facebook. And friend your kids.
Now most of you are probably remembering that “Oh please, no” moment of receiving a friend request from a parent, or that long, awkward delay after sending said request to your kid. “Mom’s on Facebook, please freaking kill me now!” But I declare it must be so. Why? It’s really simple: parents should be involved in their kids lives. That’s the only thing that separates a parent from a butler/trust fund combo. How can you mentor a stranger? And how can a kid grow up right with no advice on life? They may look like Winston Churchill when they’re born, but that doesn’t mean they come with a developed brain.
To parents: If your kids absolutely won’t have you as a friend, that’s something wrong with YOU. If they don’t want you in their virtual lives, that means you’re already not in their real lives. If they don’t trust you with their online world, they probably don’t trust you with their real world, either. Don’t blame social media for exposing the wedge between you and your kids that was already there! Also, don’t just think that you can not talk to your kids or be involved with their lives, and just use their Facebook profile as a shortcut to keep up on them. There are no shortcuts in relationships, and if you give a hoot about your kids you won’t try to take any.
To kids: Maybe now’s a good time to learn about privacy. Sure, no matter how many girl dates you have going shopping with mommy, or if you enjoy having a stiff drink with daddy while making lewd comments about girls together, there’s always stuff you don’t want the parents to find out. The coolest daddy in this whole wide rainbow-filled kumbaya world will still flip his lid when he finds out where his little girl woke up last night after confusing apple juice and whiskey. But guess what? That’ll teach you what is and isn’t good public knowledge. Mommy isn’t being a buzzkill when she objects to that photo of you snorting coke from a hooker’s navel, because odds are your future employer and fiancée won’t like it any more than her. Your private life should remain private for a reason.
Like all issues, this one is best dealt with right away, rather than when someone happens. I read about a young girl who woke up one day to find out that pictures of her were commonly featured on child porn sites. Sure, the sexiest ones were hacked and stolen from a private account meant only for her boyfriend, but her Facebook profile had plenty more to supplement them, enough so that she became known by name. If only someone had been there to tell her that a 14-year-old girl has no business looking sexy online, then may be she wouldn’t be receiving regular rape threats. Imagine how hard it was to break the news to her dad. Imagine how hard it was for him to find out his little straight-A angel was already a celebrity in the online porn community before she was even old enough to drive.
The Internet changed a lot of things, but it shouldn’t sever whatever relationship kids have with their parents. Maybe parents can’t teach their kids how to use the Internet, but they sure as hell can teach them to not be morons. And maybe the youngsters have a thing or two to teach the old farts as well. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if all our grandmothers listened to Aerosmith and followed Ashton Kutcher on Twitter? That question was rhetorical…