Can we just? For a second?
Parents of middle schoolers and high schoolers please hear me in this: 80% of you are killing me. With the iPhones for 10 year olds, and the phones in the bedroom and the unrestricted access to the internet. And the Instagram and the snapchat. (Shudder: especially the snapchat.) YOU ARE KILLING ME. I am dying.
I thought we were on the same team here.
My daughter is twelve–12–TWELVE. Know what I was doing when I was 12? Playing with Barbies and drawing pictures of horses, and eating dinner with my parents and sisters almost every night, making lemonade with real live lemons, and learning to sew scrunchies with my mom, and playing catch in the street with my actual dad not a paid private coach, and reading books and traveling and sightseeing and being forced to listen to Kenny G and Nat King Cole every time we drove anywhere.
It was a idyllic childhood for sure, but here’s what all of my friends, including those less privileged than me, were NOT doing:
- Face-timing boys in our room until midnight.
- Taking fifty duck-lips selfies per day and posting them on the internet for literally everyone to see.
- Feeling increasingly depressed as the day goes on because the number of “likes” we got on any given picture of ourselves is not equal to or greater than the number of likes we got on a similar selfie the day before.
- Being asked by a seemingly nice boy to send a picture through text.
- No, a better picture than the ones on Instagram.
- No, a better picture.
- A better one.
- So that he can show it to a friend.
- Or getting dumped by a seemingly nice boy because you’re not available to snapchat on an almost constant basis–while other girls most certainly are.
- Sending or receiving pictures through social media accounts that your mother would kill you over.
- Worrying that you wouldn’t be cool or accepted because you didn’t participate in such a manner of online activity.
Hey I could go on–I really could–but we all get the idea. My kids are not perfect, by far: but this internet stuff is friggin’ out of control and scary.
(For time’s sakes let’s not even zero in on all the sickos out there that can super easily get their demonic eyes on pretty much any photo of our child that is sent into the digital universe.)
Prostitution: bad. Sex slavery: bad. Human trafficking: bad. Child pornography: so bad. And if we are genuinely angered by rape culture and violence towards women, and people who prey on children, or women who sell sex and men who buy it–we have to take it upon ourselves to change society, starting with our very own precious children and the way we passively allow them to adopt such casual views towards sex.
We have to actively teach them that a person’s worth has nothing to do with a heavily edited sexually suggestive disappearing photo sent through an Instagram direct message. (Did you guys know that’s a real thing now? Yeah. I just figured it out.)
If you live in my town and our kids hang out regularly, I almost guarantee you are the type of parent who wants their daughter to at least develop a healthy concept of self-worth. You want her to take care of her body and her soul, and you want her to make safe and strong decisions one day regarding sex. She cannot do that without your guidance and protection, as a 12-year-old faced with the kind of pressure these kids are faced with these days. I can’t even imagine it.
It is up to us to guard their hearts and minds. It’s up to us to make and enforce rules especially when it comes to parts of culture that have such a potential for spiritual damage. It’s up to us to say “We don’t do that and this is why.”
Let’s promise each other that, from now on, we will monitor and limit our children’s access to the internet. Let’s make rules about their social media accounts. Let’s talk to them about sex and sexual predators and most importantly, let’s teach them to respect themselves and others–let your words and actions set good examples.
Set boundaries because your seventh-grade girl? May not know exactly how to say “No, it’s not okay to ask me for a ‘better’ picture, or any picture at all, and it’s not ok to be mean to me when I say no.” Check your son’s phone. Place restrictions on their browsing and googling capabilities. And keep watch even as they get older.
I don’t want my son getting addicted to pornography any more than I want my daughter to have to compete with it. I don’t want their hearts and minds damaged by it. I don’t want to unintentionally set my kids up for a lifetime of sexual temptation and spiritual struggle. I don’t want their future spouses and children to suffer because of what I neglected to teach them about and protect them from.
Will they face these temptations one day? Will they have tough decisions to make after they leave my home? You bet. But I will not allow them to swan dive into this raging fire while they are still tender and still learning and still growing.
I vow to be a better preparer. I vow to do my job as a parent to raise kind, caring people who love God and others.