A Journey of Trust and Connection
Monday, November 6, 2023
In the age of digital connectivity, parenting takes on a whole new dimension. As a mom of three teenagers, I've found myself on an evolving journey, navigating the intricate world of social media alongside my kids. I've told you in several blog posts about how we've had our ups and downs over the years, it definitely has not all been easy! While respecting their privacy, I'd like to share some insights into our family's approach to this digital landscape. They appear in no particular age order, as I don't feel that aspect is necessary.
Child 1: The Relatively Open Sharer
One of my children chooses to share their online life with me in a relatively open way. They discuss situations happening, friend issues, and online interactions (good or bad). They ask me to say hi to their friends on FaceTime and even share some text messages and photos they take with their pals after a day or night out. We've come to realize that open conversations, understanding, and empathy have strengthened our bond over the years, and has allowed them to share even more with me. I've learned that coming from a place of understanding instead of constant monitoring helped create an open and authentic relationship. It used to be a more authoritarian relationship...I dictated everything about phone use. That was a huge mistake. We've worked to get where we are now. Could there be more sharing? Yes. Am I happy with where we're at? Absolutely. I know this child is acting responsibly and has a high standard of morals and values.
Child 2: The Integrity Keeper
Child 2 has always been open and honest with me, and they share just about everything. They act with integrity and don't feel the need to hide anything. I have insight into their online life, from photos to text messages, and they readily include me in their world. Their friends have even friended me, not seeing me as a threat and actually enjoying interactions. In their words, "I don't have things to hide." This trust we've built over the years reflects the importance of open communication and transparency, and I'm so thankful for it. To quote further, "I think that I just stand by what I do and I’m not embarrassed by anything. I’ll give my phone password to a friend or show people an embarrassing photo or tell a story. I don’t really care if you know what I’m up to (to an extent of course) because I don’t think I have things to hide." Now, do we need to talk about the password thing again???
Child 3: The Guarded Explorer
Child 3 has a different approach. They maintain a certain guard when it comes to their personal life and social media interactions. While they don't share as openly as the other two, they still involve me in their digital life by sending TikToks and some posts they think I'll enjoy or that have good messages or tutorials. This teenager emphasizes the importance of privacy and individual space on social media, which I get, but it does make me worry from time to time. They've created a balance, and an easing of my worries, by occasionally allowing me into their online world while maintaining their own autonomy. I get to see some photos and posts, but rarely get invited to do TikTok dances anymore because somewhere down the line, I said "no" and "not right now" too many times. That was a mistake on my part, one that I need to fix. But, this is also the child who hangs out with us ALL the time, baking, cooking, watching shows are running errands. The physcial, real day to day life, is shared with us, that that means more than anything.
Lessons Learned and Trust Built
Our family's journey through the challenges and triumphs of social media has taught us valuable lessons. We've realized that our teenagers are growing and evolving, and they need agency and space to develop their autonomy. We trust that the work we've done in setting boundaries, educating about online safety, and modeling responsible behavior has been absorbed by them.
In this digital age, our teens have shown that they thrive in an environment of open communication, empathy, and trust. We, as parents, have learned that nurturing trust and understanding in our relationships with our teenagers can lead to meaningful and authentic connections. As we continue on this journey, we embrace the fact that the path to growing responsible digital citizens is one paved with open conversations, respect for privacy, and trust in our children's ability to make responsible choices.
The bottom line? Parenting in the digital age is a journey we share with our kids, guided by trust, understanding, and the belief that they are equipped to navigate this complex landscape.
Have a tween or teen? Sign them up for my course, now on Udemy!