Googling, Parents’ Guide to Twitter, yields 437 million results. “Cyber- bullying” results in almost 20.8 million and “Sexting” results in 21.5 million. I don’t need Google to teach me about these things (if anything, I would use urbandictionary.com)*, but parents seem to be endlessly fascinated with their kids’ online activities, even if they aren’t able to fully understand them.
As a teenager, I’m not fazed by the massive influx of technology in my life. I am at the far end of the learning curve; my parents are at the other end. I bet you can guess who is more proficient. In a blog post for The New York Times, Katherine Schulten invited students, parents, and teachers to post about technology and the rules to limit and control usage. Schulten wrote, “Not only are they often scrambling to catch up with the technological sophistication of the next generation, but parents today must also wrestle with issues of how much online privacy is appropriate.”
So, what is appropriate? I’m constantly inundated with adults telling me how dangerous the Internet is. They’ll tell me how permanent everything online is. They tell me how I will never be able to communicate/spell/ function due to technology, how my social media profile will keep me out of college and cause me to lose my job. While I understand the very real implications of these statements, I remain unconvinced.
Maybe the reason I feel so unthreatened by the Internet is because neither the Internet nor its operators have injured me. If I was a victim of cyberbullying or had posted a racy photo that spread around town or had a college turn me down because of my profile picture, I’m sure I would feel differently.
As of now, the biggest threat the Internet poses is as a vehicle for procrastination.
Which, as a high-school-senior-cum-college-applicant, is actually terrifying.
Among my friends on social media, the ones who swear, take questionable photos, rant, pose with red plastic cups and engage in other such behaviors do so off line too. Cyberbullying is a serious problem and incredibly dangerous, but so is offline harassment. Students who are dishonest use technology to aid them in this pursuit. On the other hand, teenagers who are conscientious, focused, kind and self-aware present themselves in these ways online. Of course, I’m basing these statements on the small data pool of my friends, personal experience and casual observations. None of that is backed by research or professional endorsement.
My parents don’t use social media. But they didn’t need to be to raise me to value my reputation and understand the distinctions between good and bad attention. I don’t think parents have a real need to use social media for the sole purpose of monitoriing their kids. They don’t need to scroll through their kids’ texts. They don’t need to set parental blocks on every other website if they’re confident in the skill sets and values they have instilled in their children. But, always ahead of the learning curve in this domain, my parents have enlisted an army of spies, just in case I ever step out of line: adult relatives and family friends with whom I’m friends on social media and on whom they can rely to remind me of their guidance.
* www.urbandictionary.com: an online dictionary to which users (mostly teenagers) post definitions of slang, slurs and other entries, which are ab- sent from Merriam-Webster
To read Teen #1 click here.