Parenting by Facebook, a brave new world

Times are a changing indeed. Back in the 1980’s when I was teenager we thought we were big shit if we had cable TV. I can’t even begin to imagine the trouble I could have brought down upon myself if I had the internet and things like Facebook; luckily I will never know and no one will ever see the pictures of me on New Year’s Eve when I was 16 and hanging out with all my pals who were tripping off acid while I proceeded to get drunk and lay on my friend’s (said friend is now a cop) bathroom floor. All my childhood mistakes only exist in the minds of those involved and the older I get those memories fade away. However I can say with almost 100% certainty that if the internets and things like Facebook had existed in my teen years I would have totally been caught showing off pictures of me and my teenage stupidity.

Today’s teens though are living in a different world, a world where so much of their lives is lived online. I was just at a meeting a few days ago with area youth providers and we discussed how so many of the local teens are living online. I have witnessed with my own eyes two or more teens sitting side by side, not talking to each other yet both on Facebook chatting on Facebook with each other…I gotta be honest the first time I saw that at work, I was speechless. Now it is a norm.

Kids are connected digitally, they text, Facebook, IM, you get the picture. Rather than getting together in real time, they share their lives virtually and that means both the good and the bad. For parents, it’s a brave new world. I am fortunate that with my 20 year old I never worried much about his online use but with one more kid to raise I do wonder what the digital future holds.

It’s starting to become common that we hear of kids misbehaving when it comes to their online privileges and increasingly we have parents doling out their punishments online as well. Just a few months ago, we had the dad, Tommy Jordan who decided to film himself shooting his daughter’s laptop after repeat rule violations with regards to her online usage. Many were in an uproar decrying that dad was an abuser; I wrote my thoughts at the time. Today we have ReShonda Tate Billingsley, an author who decided to post a picture of her underage daughter holding a sign stating that she basically lost her online privileges since she had been caught holding up bottles of alcohol online.

This situation was brought to my attention on twitter by a tweep (h/t to Snarky who tweeted this photo) who deemed the mother a cyber-bully and troll. I actually asked real life pals who happened to be parents their thoughts and none saw the mother as a bully; some admitted that they might not have posted the punishment picture but that maybe digital crimes requite digital punishments. I asked the Spousal Unit his thoughts and he posed the question, is a public shaming online in this manner any different than in the old days when you were grounded and your parents told everyone who called or stopped by that you are grounded?

As a parent we want to keep our kids safe, and the thing with online fooling around is that we leave a digital footprint, one that can last and be accessible far longer than my drunken escapades at 16. We know that in 2012 people lose or are denied employment based off what they do online. In many ways as the world becomes smaller with technology we don’t have nearly the freedom those of us who grew up before the digital years had. Is a parent a bully for fighting online offenses with their online strategy even if it involves shaming? Is this merely a new form of tough love? I admit I am torn, I am not a fan of shaming but frankly there are times as a parent you will do anything to reach your child. Is a momentary shaming that reaches the kid worth it?

In this brave new world, I suspect more and more of us will be parenting by Facebook.

3 thoughts on “Parenting by Facebook, a brave new world”

  1. This terrifies me when I think about potentially becoming a parent some day…When I was a teenager I was a huge dork and into local BBS hijinks. Which was like a small local internet, and i know I got into enough trouble on those….so with the world wide open, as it is, I don’t know what I will do to try and patrol by future child’s access to the internet. Just this morning on the way to work my husband and I were stopped beside a school bus and every kid had an iphone or mp3 player and was totally in their own world. I think that part scares me the most, kids can now plug in and avoid everyone. How are they ever going to learn to get along with people and be socially conscious?

  2. I don’t understand how, from the teenager’s side, posting humiliating images online can be dangerous because of digital footprints and so on, but from the parent’s side, posting humiliating images online is just like some other punishment in the past. Public shaming is much different than grounding someone and only telling the people who need to know. For one, this post wouldn’t exist if she had been grounded, as there is no way you would have become a spectator to this girl’s punishment. Why do you and I get to observe and judge her for her silly mistake she made as a teenager? Won’t this leave some sort of internet legacy that will be much harder for her to leave behind than the punishments of the past? If we have to worry about future employers seeing pictures of her with alcohol, don’t we also have to worry about future employers seeing pictures of her being publicly shamed for it?

  3. all good questions. i have dealt with this more and more as my kids become older. i don’t see these parents as bullies. i am actually impressed that these parents discovered or paid attention to what their kids were doing online. most parents do not. at least, in my experience with the parents of the kids i know online, the norm is to choose not to pay attention to what your kids are doing, under the excuse of “i do not understand” or “i do not have time” or “i do not want to invade their privacy”. point one and two…lazy parents. point three? a little trickier…but i choose to *invade* publicly…if my kids post it for the world to see? i am going to be one of the people seeing it. they know this, i know they know this, their friends ( sme on the unfortunate receiving end of comments from moi ) know this. i expect my kids to behave online as they do in the real world. and that requires politeness, tact and occasional reminders of what is appropriate and what is not.

    would i call my kid out online? maybe. i have no issue with the mom who had her daughter post the above photo. fair is fair – i would rather see that than another kid with a bottle of booze in her/his hand. or a joint. where does it end?

    the truth, as i see it? that photo will be online long enough for a few of the girl’s contacts to get a good laugh about it…and then they will forget about it. the attention span is not there for long term retention. the only person that lesson is going to stick to is that kid. and i have no problem with that.

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