I’m ashamed to say that I was in denial about the importance of monitoring my teenagers’ online activity. And I got burned.
Last weekend I found out by accident that my youngest had betrayed my ONE basic rule of Internet use.
Thou Shalt Not Talk To Strangers.
I know you’re thinking that I should have taken my head out of the sand. That I shouldn’t have taken my eyes off the 13-year old’s online activity for even one second. That I shouldn’t have let him have a computer in his room, or an iPad with internet access. I should have been crawling his computer with spyware and asking to see his Skype messages. But, I didn’t do any of those highly recommended parental online controls. I trusted him, just like I trusted my two older children. I laid down a guideline and made the assumption that he would comply, just like his older siblings had done.
You know what they say happens when you assume, right? You make an ass out of… Well, you get it.
It was just two weeks ago that I was bragging how adept my kid was on the Internet. Somehow, my blog had been compromised by malware, and the little genius fixed it. He saved the day. Fingers flew at the speed of light, tap tap tap, and my blog was claimed in Google and clear of anything malicious. Don’t ask me how he did it, but it apparently involved html code, my home page, and lots of squiggles.
Where did he learn how to do this? On the Internet. In his room. That’s what he was doing for hours. Learning code. And how to hack. And un-hack, obviously.
I was about to share my triumph with all of you , telling you how you shouldn’t really monitor your child’s internet usage because they might be learning something productive, and if those are their interests, and who are we to say what they should be doing. Because I’m a big shot. And I know everything.
His computer processor blew. Obviously from overuse. He broke his ipad. Well, he actually crushed it to the point where the glass was in shards. So, desperate for his online fix, he appropriated my iPad.
I did wonder what he was doing on an iPad for hours. You can’t write code on an iPad to my knowledge. I assumed he was watching videos, connecting on Facebook, playing games.
There goes that naughty word again. Ass. You. Me.
I happened to pick up my iPad one morning and I saw a nofication that there were 5 Skype IMs awaiting. I touched the screen. I mean, it was my iPad. And, as I’m told, there should be no privacy when it comes to the Internet and teenagers. I was curious.
There were about 20 open chats. With strangers.
Also, my 13-year-old is apparently in university, can pick stellar photos of hot chicks, and is a varsity Lacrosse player. Who lives in Canada.
The things you learn on the Internet.
But they were just programmers and hackers, mom. They’re nice guys.
They’re strangers. Are you allowed to talk to strangers on the Internet?
But, if I told them my real age they would not have talked to me.
Exactly. Is lying permitted in this house or really anywhere?
Look. My kid is not stupid. In fact, he’s the opposite of that. He never gave out personal information, did not respond to requests for money, and never engaged in illegal activity such as viewing pornography. He was learning interesting things. Skills. Technology.
But, he still broke my rule. I don’t have a lot of them, because I want my children to learn how to make good choices within my boundaries. But, the few rules I do have are designed to keep my kids safe.
- Don’t talk to strangers
- Tell me where you’re going and where you actually end up.
- Don’t lie.
- Don’t be stupid.
He broke 3 out of the 4. Not a great ratio.
Interestingly enough, when confronted, he didn’t argue with me which he is wont to do when faced with a perceived injustice. He was honorable. He admitted his mistake.
He took his lumps which include:
- No Internet for one month other than supervised research for school;
- Once allowed, one hour of supervised Internet use per day until we get bored of watching Youtube videos with him or trust him again, whichever comes first;
- The lost privilege of having a Blackberry password;
- Deleting and blocking all Skype contacts that he has not met in person.
(I don’t punish often but I’m obviously very good at it.)
My son understood that he betrayed our trust and that he would have to earn it back. We told him that we believed he could earn it back and that we were looking forward to trusting him again.
I’m very proud of my boy for stepping up and exhibiting a desire to learn from the error of his ways. In the spirit of disclosure, I admitted mine.
I should never have given you that kind of freedom at your age. I apologize for not watching you better.
I’m sort of happy that we got into this mess. Because wow, what a teachable moment.
What do you do to make sure your teens are safe on the Internet?