Monday, May 19, 2014

Unchartered Territory

I have a few friends who are in their early 20's. The other day one of them was sitting in my kitchen and we were "discussing" (I was ranting AT her) about how technology is making the job of raising kids a virtual nightmare. She pointed out to me that I was closer to her mother's age than hers and then I promptly lost feeling in all of my extremities. THEN - to add insult to injury - she made the comment that her parents didn't really have to deal with these issues because the iPhone didn't come out until she was a junior in high school. 

HOMEGIRLSAYWHAT?!?

UNTIL she was a junior in high school? When I was a junior in high school our "car phone" might fit into a carry-on suitcase and was used for emergencies only. At $3.99 a minute don't even THINK about dialing that mofo unless the car is literally on fire or someone is approaching the vehicle wearing a mask and holding a deadly weapon. No, really. Are there flames? Guns? Machetes? Okay, then. Hands off, sister. 

The computer lab in our high school was outfitted with desktops the size of a mini-fridge and had black and green screens. The curser was a blinking half-inch square. A mouse was literally a small rodent eliciting screams and wreaking havoc when found on the desk in a classroom. 

iPhone what? Pffft. Email was invented MY junior year. INVENTED. Meaning no one other than Steve Jobs knew what the hell it did or how to use it. The internet wasn't a concept I could wrap my head around. I remember sitting in class one day and hearing someone say, "Did you know that one day we'll be able to use computers to shop? Like you won't even have to go to the mall." I responded, "Whatever. No way. Why would anyone even want to do that, anyway? How laaaaaazy." 

Oh young, stupid, 17 year-old me…bless your heart. And don't call me lazy, bitch.  

Back to me being closer to the age of the 20-something year old's mother (and the 5 glasses bottles of wine that makes me want to drink). It was during that conversation that it really hit home that my generation is the first generation of parents to really have to deal with this whole technology thing. No wonder none of us have a clue what we are doing!

NO ONE HAS EVER DONE THIS BEFORE. 

Elementary school-aged children are walking around with cell phones. Infants know how to operate tablets. Internet access is EVERYWHERE. Whether I agree with it or not, it's happening. And it scares the hell out of me. 

So, last weekend my 9 year-old son was watching a YouTube video on his iPad Mini. I previously set parental controls on all of their apps and limited which websites are allowed to be accessed, so I (naively) haven't worried too much about what my kids come across while online. Because I protected them. Ahem. Anyway, as I was listening, I heard the person on the video say the words, "OMFG." Only it wasn't the acronym. It was the actual words. Naturally, I flipped out and lit the iPad on fire. Not really. But, I found myself on the verge of tears because it was then that I realized - I mean like really realized - that unless I keep my children completely sheltered from technology (which is kind of unreasonable and also virtually impossible), there is a good (like 100%) chance they are going to be exposed to things that I am just not okay with.  

We immediately called a family meeting because I was in full-blown panic mode and ready to pack up the whole family to go live in a van down by the river. If it weren't for my undying love of indoor plumbing, that would remain a serious consideration. But seriously…yay for flushing toilets. 

My husband and I conducted an "app review" on each of their iPads (go ahead and add that to the list of problems our parents did NOT have to deal with), and then I experienced a bout of verbal diarrhea listing off all the world's problems, the horrors of internet access, and how human beings in general are terrible. That is an exaggeration, but we did talk about internet safety and how - unfortunately - there are people out there who put inappropriate things online in "disguise" specifically hoping that a child will come across them. I feel somewhere between moderately and extremely confident that this family meeting was successful in terrifying the shit out of my children, as well as securing a place for me in the "Lamest Parent Ever" Hall of Fame. So yeah, I feel pretty good about my parenting that day.   

Nevertheless, I'm still burdened with questions - FROM MYSELF - on how to approach all of this. I'm not dumb enough to believe for one second that my kids are incapable of doing things they shouldn't, but we have a family rule that goes something like, "I trust you until you give me a reason not to, at which time your life is going to suck now and forevermore." I paraphrased just then, but you get the gist. 

Do I make them sit in the room with me whenever they do anything online? That seems a little helicopter-ish. Do I need to regularly log in to their Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook and email accounts? And what about texts? It seems like reading my daughter's text messages borders on an invasion of privacy. Do I do it anyway? And FaceTime? Oh God. The things that could happen on FaceTime.  Shiiiiiiiiittttt! This is SO hard. 

What I wouldn't do to have a telephone fixed to the kitchen wall. You know, with a 20 foot cord stretched across the living room and a teenager sitting with her back against the other side of a closed door because that was as far as the cord would stretch and all I had to do was push the little hang-up thingy on the base to shut down any inappropriate goings on. Bam. Done. Conversation over. And also it is very hard for someone to send nekkid pictures to a rotary phone.

*Sigh*

I have never felt so clueless in all my life. 

I. Don't. Know. What. I'm. Doing. 

Do you?

Pull up a chair and pass the wine. You're in good company.