It has been said to me many times over the yeas that my parenting style is somewhat "uptight", "old fashioned", and even "prudish". Those same words have even been used on just as many occasions to describe my marriage, mainly because my husband and myself do not subscribe to that world of "it's okay to look as long as you don't touch". Regardless, we don't allow it to sway us from having the marriage we feel works best for us. More than anything because we know the children who live under our roof are watching and what we show them will be large determining factor in the people they become. So obviously having children and having spent life working with children, I am more than aware how the young adolescent mind works, how they have a natural curiosity about certain things, specifically girls, (and the same is true of girls being curious about boys). What I am not aware of is the reasoning behind the inappropriate ways in which so many are allowed to go about learning and discovering this particular world as well as the fact that in some cases, society appears to have just accepted it.
Parents are more than aware, or they should be, that there are millions of avenues that young people can utilize as opportunities to gain information about the opposite sex and/or just feed basic curiosity. The internet, magazines, movies, peers, etc. Personally, I feel one of the biggest mistakes we are making as parents, is assuming our children are learning about sex somewhere else. What children are taught or not taught in regards to sex and sexuality will lay the foundation for the views and ideals they develop, how they interact with the opposite sex, how they treat them, how they act in relationships, and many other things. Sex Education isn't just about teaching the "birds and bees" anymore. So if you are that parent who puts their head in the sand believing their child will get it all somewhere, you're right, they will learn it somewhere alright! However what they will learn is almost certainly going to be unrealistic, inappropriate, idealistic, and sounding like a fairytale. In the cases of young men, they sometimes have the added bonus of inheriting a very misogynistic view of the opposite sex. Do you realize about 13 million teens between the ages of 13 and 19 get an STD each year! It 2008 it was reported (according to the best possible calculations) that by the age of 15, only 13% of never married teenagers were still virgins. Of course there is always teen pregnancy and sexting, but I have actually already written articles on those topics.
My children all have a Facebook and obviously since their ages vary, the amount of time they have had one has varied. However, they all got their accounts around the same age and part of the agreement was that I have their log in information so that their Facebook activities could be checked regularly, not excessively, just regularly. We were not sneaking around or doing anything behind their backs because as I stated, this was something they agreed to before getting the Facebook. I will also say, something they agreed to willingly without issue. I feel children, just like adults, don't have issues being honest or forthcoming when they have nothing to hide. The same was true of their cell phones. Now in our house, you don't get a cell phone until you are 13 so the youngest doesn't have one, but the other two knew that at anytime I would check their messages or texts. Now, I guess it should be noted that this is not something practiced with our oldest and hasn't really been for a while since he is almost 19. I also realize not every parent would choose this route and that is their right. However, it shouldn't have to be said out loud that there are an insane amount of opportunities on Facebook alone, never mind the internet, for kids to be taken advantage of and/or make choices that are not conducive to their growth or safety. There are predators, bullies, manipulators, as well as dozens of temptations for children, which I feel will only be intensified if they know in advance their activities are not being monitored.
When I look a the "newsfeed" on my children's Facebook pages, I often find myself speechless due to witnessing how many adolescent boys/girls are visiting Facebook pages that are absolutely, nothing less than porn sites. Not to mention some of the unbelievably inappropriate pictures these same young men and women will be posting of themselves! Last time I checked Facebook was a social networking site!!! It's for people to have the opportunity to keep up with friends and family, have access to pages where you can get coupons and deals, kids can keep up with their favorite bands or sports stars, and everyone can play games to pass the time. When did Facebook become a porn peddling site??? I see all of these young kids liking pages, that in my opinion are porn, but for those who don't agree, they are at the very least HIGHLY inappropriate, especially for the age group viewing it. The most disturbing part is the only thing standing in the way of these children and the ability to view the content is to click on a ridiculous "Like" button. I have to wonder what is to be gained in anyway by Facebook allowing such sites to even be added? Correct me if I am wrong, but do they not have rules set up for pictures that are uploaded? What is the point of rules if there is no enforcement? I realize monitoring individual pictures is hard, but an entire site, come on! The internet was already loaded down with endless numbers of portholes to poison and plague the innocent mind long before Facebook came along, can we not have one clean place for children and young adults to be?
I also don't understand why so many parents out there are not either taking note of, taking down, or taking away the privileges of these young people who constantly feel the need to post half naked pictures of themselves. Some being as young as 13, 14, 15 years old! All young people in our society today, but especially the girls should be shown the importance of having respect for themselves as well as demanding it from others which will never happen if they are posting pictures that would give Playboy a run for their money. I also hate to point out the obvious which is girls and boys posting such pictures is a way of communicating an unmet need! I don't think there are too many things more frustrating than seeing parents actively avoid addressing the needs of their children while at the same time spouting that ever so popular line of nonsense "I am allowing my child to express themselves".
It has also been my experience that the individuals who choose to engage in wearing scandalous clothes, share their body with the world with no reservation, and express themselves in over sexualized ways, tend to be the first ones who are offended when they are objectified, especially women, as opposed to acknowledging that maybe the way they are choosing to represent themselves is playing a large part in the world's perception of them. Just being the visual creatures we are, what we see in the first 30 seconds as well as what we hear in the first few minutes of interaction are the very things that play a large role in determining our perception of someone. It may not seem fair, but it makes it no less true so if you want to be taken seriously, if you want to be treated like a respectable individual, and if you want people to view you as intelligent and good intentioned, then you have to put a certain level of effort into how you choose to represent yourself to the world. That doesn't in anyway mean turtle-necks, long sleeves, and slacks, it just means having enough regard and respect for yourself to avoid providing every inch of skin you possess to strangers through a computer screen and that is absolutely an equal opportunity statement...guys and girls alike!!!
Probably one of the biggest reasons for being more cautious is also one of the most obvious. Once something is on the internet, it's on there forever, there are NO do-overs! When you are a teenager that is of little consequence because most of them don't put a lot of thought into their future profession or their future period. However, there are some professions in which certain pictures and certain actions could come back to haunt you and possibly cost you your dreams. I would think the numerous Miss America contestants, beauty contestants, American Idol contestants, etc, would serve as great proof. While there really is nothing wrong with being young and being smart at the same time, there is also nothing wrong with being their parent. Showing up, being present, guiding them, teaching them, helping them be successful!
To some this article may seem like a lot randomness and to some it could make perfect sense. I am also aware some may just flat out disagree and that's okay too. I have heard many times, "the world is full of smut, there is nothing we can do about it, things have changed, might as well accept it". Okay, I can accept that I guess, but I am curious, the world is full of drugs too, do you let your child do those? The world is full of crime too, do you allow your child to partake in it? Same principle! The fact is, while I do accept we don't live in "Leave It To Beaver" times anymore, I have not become so jaded that I am going to parent according to the philosophy of "just because something is SO, I should accept it as SO" and not put forth any effort to change it. I also know that while I can't control the world, I can control my house and to an extent, the environment my children are exposed to. My husband and myself make the choice to work as hard as we can at not allowing THAT world into our home because we feel it is inappropriate, unrealistic, and plain degrading to women and men. However, we also choose to address the subject head on with our children by having a rational, intelligent, educated conversation with them, not running from it and ignoring it. We do that because we are realistic and know that no matter how hard we try or what we do, that world will find it's way in, even if on a small level. We would rather they get their information from us as well as help them to know they can come to us when they have questions. My husband nor myself are perfect parents by any means, we are only trying to provide our children with a healthy sense of self, healthy sense of relationships, and overall practical and appropriate ideals about sex. For if we are able to create this world for them in our home, then when they grow up, it will increase their chances of being able to do the same with their children! That folks is how we break cycles! That folks is how we create change!