Don’t get me wrong, I wish my kids were my Facebook friends. I wish they wanted to share their most embarrassing moments with me. I wish they wanted me to know everything about their high school and college lives. Frankly, I would be happy to stalk them and would love nothing better than to pry into their Snapchat or eavesdrop on their GroupMes.
But the mom part of me that would love a window into their social media does battle everyday with the mom part of me that is proud they are grown and have lives of their own. These two warring halves of motherhood, the half that wants to know and the half that feels I shouldn’t, are locked in a fierce battle and I have declared my childrens’ privacy the victor.
I can be pretty envious of moms who have access to their kids online lives, but for me there are some compelling reasons to stay away.
1. They need to navigate on their own.
At first I thought social media and teens a toxic and frightening combination. But over time I have come to see that if billions of people can handle this challenge, so can my kids. Reflecting my own naiveté, at one time I thought there were baddies online who would come and find my kids through their Facebook accounts. Soon I saw that, just as kids of my generation were allowed to wander free, with our parents giving us rules and advice about dangers and strangers, my kids would need to learn to wander online without me.
2. It might be time to move on.
I want to stalk my sons and would love to drop into their lives and see the photos of their every move. The journey to the empty nest has not been an easy one for me and I don’t feel the relief that some other parents do that my kids have left home. Despite that, I know that in some ways, for them and me, it is time to move on. By not being able to follow them on social media, I am probably doing all of us a favor.
3. It is their world.
Social media is a combination of the notes we once passed in class or slid into each others’ lockers and the secrets we whispered into the wall-mounted phone. Social media is both the gossip mill of the playground and the private missives between friends and I need to let my kids find their way. They deserve the same privacy we had even if the platform for that has changed.
4. They can run and hide.
Stalking my kids on Facebook was never going to turn up their misdeeds or anything, in fact, that they did not want me to know. Teens trying to hide something from their parents have plenty of places to do so. If I insist that they friend me on Facebook, they can move to Instagram, and if I hunt them down there they can scurry to Snapchat. Eventually they will find a social media platform, (Ello, anyone?) that I have not heard of.
5. Online there is no context.
Have you ever seen a teenage drama online and worried frantically only to discover it was over in an hour? I once called the mother of one of my then middle school son’s friends to tell her I had seen a message the daughter had left for my son (on my computer) which said, “I am going to have to kill myself.” I was wreck all night and could not sleep. First thing in the morning I called the girl’s mother, reasoning that I would not be able to live with myself otherwise. The mother of this girl laughed and said that the phrase was every other word out of her daughter’s mouth. I wondered if I really wanted to know what they say online when I have no context for it in real life.
6. It’s time to get off the “roller coaster.”
Do I really want to ride the rollercoaster of the ups and downs of teen and young adult life at that level of minutiae? In a wonderful piece about how to parent teens and young adults, Lisa Belkin advises to get off the roller coaster. We do not need to ride every up and down of their lives with them, to be there for them. We can be the supportive, constructive adults without living through their every emotional moment. Staying on the ground is much easier to do if you are not with them on Facebook.
7. I would be even more embarrassing if we were Facebook friends.
For many years my kids were embarrassed that I even existed. The last thing they needed was that embarrassment in real life and cyberspace.
8. Staying off their social media does not mean disconnecting technologically.
My kids and I are in an endless conversation on text and my window onto their world is widened with a stream of amusing, poignant and pedestrian photos they share with me. When something makes them smile, reminds them of home or they are just looking for my opinion, I get pictures. Sure the content is curated just for mom, but I am wondering if that isn’t just as it should be.