There are two blogs going around Facebook lately. You might have read them. Or you might’ve just scrolled right on by, which I usually do. But I happened to read both because they were both reposted by friends whose opinions on parenting I value and trust. Here is the link to the first post written by Mrs. Hall on behalf of her sons. http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/. Read this first, see how you feel about it, and then read the reply blog letter to Mrs. Hall. http://putdowntheurinalcake.com/2013/09/dear-mrs-hall-regarding-your-fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/.
If you’ve read it already, you know what it’s about. If you haven’t read it, and you frankly don’t want to read them, here’s the gist: Mrs. Hall says, “Teenage girls, be careful what you post because my ‘Hall men’ (her boys) can see it, we see it, and my boys like it when you pose with your duck lips with your nipples showing because you’re not wearing a bra, but I don’t like it because I’m their mom and my boys are perfect and you are ruining them. And also, if I see it one time, then you’re done. That’s it. No second chances for the Hall men.” (I’m paraphrasing, of course.)
Mom #2 says, “Nuh-uh…don’t blame it all on the girls.” (Also paraphrasing.)
When I first read Mrs. Hall’s post, I was in complete agreement with her. I have two boys, one of which is in junior high and is on Facebook and Instagram. Now, he’s 12 years old. Should he be on Instagram at this age? Well, that was our decision as parents to let him be on Instagram under our close monitoring. He has a lot of friends, both boys and girls, who are members as well. Like Mrs. Hall, I see my son’s friends’ posts – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Mrs. Hall refers to her sons as “Hall men.” My son is a boy, and I won’t be calling him a man until he’s at least 18 or can grow a beard, so I’m guessing, judging by his dad’s beard-growing skills, about 25,
He’s a boy. A prepubescent boy about to be pubescent. He’s had his iPhone taken away so many times I can’t even count anymore. Sometimes it’s for talking back, rolling his eyes, just being a little jerk like prepubescent boys can be. Sometimes I think he forgets we monitor every. single. thing he does on his phone because he’s had his phone taken away umpteen times for posts or comments that are rude or inappropriate. We monitor his activity, first and foremost, but we DO see all the posts of his friends, and at times we feel like we must be the only parents monitoring their kids’ activity on social media. Because if the parents of these kids were monitoring, there’s no way they would allow their kid to post that inappropriate material; right?
Well, then, that gets into a whole slippery slope of who lets their kids do what and say what that I don’t let my kids do or say. Some parents let their kids swear, so an Instagram post with swear words isn’t going to bother them, whereas my kid will lose his phone and be grounded for a month. It isn’t for me to judge how other people raise their kids. I can only raise mine.
It’s a different world now, though, isn’t it? When I was a teenager, my friend and I took somewhat provocative photos of ourselves. With a camera. With film. No Facebook, no Instagram in 1994. I developed the pictures, we had a good laugh over them, and guess what? They don’t exist anymore. Once I was old enough to know better, they were promptly destroyed. What kids don’t seem to grasp with social media is that once it’s out there online, it’s out there. Even if they delete it themselves, it’s still out there. If you text someone a photo on their phone, there’s no end to the possibilities of where that photo can end up.
This is what I strive to teach my sons about the Internet and social media. My son, my boy (again not a man) has big dreams about what he wants to do with his life. I am so happy he has big goals. I try to make him understand that the choices he makes now, and the things he puts out there, might come back to bite him later on. But he’s a kid, and he doesn’t have the proper brain synapses yet to grasp that on his own. That’s why his parents, us, have to step in when appropriate and gently, but firmly, redirect him. Just like when they were toddlers and getting into something. Saying “no” only goes so far. You have to get their noses out of it and into something more appropriate.
Doesn’t this all come down to parenting? Whether you have a boy or a girl, it’s parenting. If you have a teenage girl, I hope you are monitoring what she posts on social media. Not because other people might judge her (even though they will) but for her sake, for her future, because she doesn’t know how her 25-year-old self is going to look back on her teen self and regret the things she did then. Boys are going to look at her as a sexual being (I don’t like the word “object” here) whether she posts pictures on Instagram or not. But I know if social media were around when I was a teen, my own mom would’ve been monitoring it (because she monitored ME) and she taught me the constants that don’t change in life, no matter what our form of communication is at the moment. Boys are attracted to girls. Girls are attracted to boys. (Assuming they are heterosexual. You get what I’m saying.) I knew as a teenager what boys were after. I knew not to put it all out there. I had self-respect. Why? Because that’s how I was raised.
If you have boys, you need to teach your boys how to treat girls, to respect girls. I am teaching my boys these things. TEACH your boys that girls are not sexual objects. TEACH your boys to think before they post. TEACH your boys to ask themselves whether what they say online to someone they would say to that person’s face.
ASK yourselves as a parent whose responsibility it is to parent your children. Do not put the responsibility on other parents or a 13-year-old girl who will make mistake after mistake after mistake and fall down many times, just like your child will, each time refining themselves. This is what life is after all. We all make mistakes, and we are given grace to start again. As parents, we dole out grace a lot, don’t we? We unconditionally love our sweet children no matter what they do. Perhaps we should be more forthcoming with grace for other people’s children as well.
If we (Mrs. Hall) cannot teach our (her) children how to handle being on social media and seeing what there is to see, then perhaps they have no business being on social media to begin with. After all, we can’t parent other people’s kids. If it’s too hot in the kitchen, it’s time to get out of it and order takeout. (I don’t know..just came to me.)
As for me, I give my kids plenty of grace (rope to hang themselves with) and when they need it, I pull them back in. As a 35-year-old woman now, I’m pretty glad I had parents who gave a shit to monitor what I did and who I talked to. I don’t have a lot of regrets from my teen years, but after making mistakes like everyone does, I’m glad I was given plenty of grace so I could screw up again. Where would anyone be if they were written off after one mistake?
Mrs. Hall, the next time you see the girl with no bra, or in her bath towel, seducing your precious, innocent boys, don’t chastise the girl. Ask yourself, “Where are her parents?”
My boys when they were little and cute. 🙂