This Rain is Killing Me, & Thoughts on Kids & Computers

April 13, 2011

It is very, very wet outside today.

It’s 2:20 p.m., and I should be at the gym.  I was going to go to the gym today, but instead, my eyes don’t want to stay open, and my head feels like it weighs 1000 pounds.  And those 1,000 pounds want to CLUNK onto my desk, and to give my eyes permission to close.

Somewhere inside of me, I know that the gym will likely wake me up.  Give me a zing of energy.

But in a more accessible place is the knowledge that a warm cup of coffee will do the same.

And I am – therefore – choosing to be lazy.

Maybe I’ll try the coffee, and go to the gym at 3, instead of at 2?


Last night, some friends and I got together to go to a talk that was advertised as what parents need to know about kids’ involvement on Facebook.

Mouse just signed up for Facebook.  Yes, it’s a couple of weeks before she turns 13, and I let her sign up anyway.  There was a critical mass of her classmates joining, and this is almost the exact time that her sister joined, at the end of 7th grade.

We created her page together, I set up her privacy (“friends only” – “friends only” – “friends only”) and we talked a bit about what a “friend” is on Facebook, and I set certain standards.  “But Mom, what if it’s someone who went to my school, but then they moved away?”  “You can be friends with them, but not their friends at their new school.”  “What about someone who doesn’t go to my school, but I know them from sports?”  Same answer.  We also set a technology curfew – which her sister has had in place since the summer, at least, but we hadn’t needed to set for her.  But Facebook, ahhh Facebook – the world’s largest time suck.  Curfews and time limits become necessary.

Mouse was funny:  “I never knew what people did on Facebook, so I’m glad I joined.  But I still don’t really know what people do.  There’s nothing to do …. except stalk people.”  Her sister laughed.  “Oh, Mouse, there’s plenty to do.”

But Mouse seems underwhelmed.

Since she signed up, however, some of the other kids in her class have found themselves some trouble.  Like the one who signed up with an alias.  “Why’d she use that name?”  Mouse just looked at me with a purposefully blank look. “Is she not allowed to use her real name?”  Blank look.  “ohhhh, she’s not supposed to be on Facebook.”  Blank look broke:  “I didn’t say that, I didn’t say anything.  Please don’t say anything!”  I went on to say “She’s being really dumb.  She’s gonna get caught.”  To which Mouse responded, “but it won’t have anything to do with ME when she gets caught, RIGHT mom?”

One of Lemon’s friends did the same in 7th grade, before she was allowed on Facebook.  She got caught.  She was then grounded for 2 months.  Oof!

I didn’t tell, but I sent the girl a message through Mouse:  Parents are monitoring – someone will eventually tell your parents.  Delete the account.

It was deleted within 12 hours.  (I was not making a threat.  It was sharing a reality.  I knew at least one other mom would be telling. I’d held her off temporarily, but she’s isn’t one to be silenced for too long.)

Then came the story of the fake account, set up in one child’s name by an (as of yet unknown) other child.  Bad things were said.

So this little meeting seemed like it would be helpful.  We should know how what our kids are up to, and how to protect them.

What I would have wanted from the meeting:

  • To be told about ways to ensure my child didn’t have their name used for a “fake account,”
  • Tips for how to monitor my children’s internet usage — places they can post things that parents forget to look?
  • More tips for those parents who are less savvy than myself.  Hey, this is your child’s wall.  This is their list of friends.  Does your child *really* have 638 friends?  How many people have been to your house to visit your child?  Likely not 638.  These are the pictures that other people have posted of your child.  These are pages your child has joined.  See the comments your child has left on these pages?  And so on.
  • Some information on non-Facebook kid-popular sights.  Formspring?  Are they using Twitter?  What else is out there?  How can we stay current with that?
  • A tutorial on how gmail can be used; who can kids chat with?  How can they be sure that they are chatting with people who are who they say they are?

What we instead got at the talk:

See where I got those links?  NY Times.  Our local paper.  CNN.  Yahoo.

So they told us a bunch of what, really, we already know.

And there’s so much that so many people do not know.

It was frustrating.


I view myself as a savvy parent.  Not just with technology, but with teen behavior in general.  I was a sneaky, sneaky girl.  My parents were unreasonably strict, and I found ways around it.  I’d like to think that I’m reasonable, and so my kids don’t need to sneak around.  But I don’t “like to think” that so much to the point of being stupid, or blind.

The other day, I walked into Lemon’s room to check on her, and her progress on homework.  She had her computer open, and I peeked at the screen.  Her browser was open, with 2 active tabs:  Google docs and gmail.  (Her history teacher considers an assignment turned it at the date and time that it was “shared” on google docs.)

“See?  I’m doing my history, Mom!” (so much irritation in her voice – how dare I question her?)

So I reached over, put the little mouse on the “windows” tab, and clicked.  What was hiding behind that browser window that she willingly showed me?

Hulu.com.  She was in the middle of a Bones episode.  She’s not allowed to watch t.v. on her computer without permission, and she damn well knows that permission will not be granted if her homework isn’t done.

I’m sorry, mommy.  I won’t ever do it again.”

That’s what you said last time.  ONE MORE TIME, and the computer stays in the dining room.  You do your homework in the dining room, and you lose non-homework computer time.”

I understand.  I’m sorry.  I really won’t let it happen again.”


But mom … how did you even know to look??!!

Because, my dear.  Even though internet wasn’t a part of my life until after you were born, sneaking around behind my parents’ back was my specialty.

I started out sneaking Stephen King novels – I would open them inside of my text books, and when my mom poked her head in to see what I was doing, all she saw was the history textbook.  Maybe she paused to wonder what it was about world history that put that terrified look on my face (Salem’s Lot was so scary, I couldn’t sleep for a month), but if so, she didn’t think to ask about it.

Then I graduated to sneaking a spare telephone into my room, that I would plug into my wall after my parents went to bed.  I had been forbidden from talking on the phone after a certain time, and probably didn’t follow the rule, so they took my phone.  So I got a new one, and hid it.

Then the ultimate graduation – sneaking out my window and down the driveway into my boyfriend’s car (his mother worked nights) several times a week.  And it wasn’t so we could play cards.

I knew how to get around my parents.  And I know what to watch for; at least to some degree.

It’s not hard to apply that to my familiarity of modern technology.

My poor, poor kids.

(Of course, I can’t ignore the fact that my kids are smarter and savvier than me – I’m sure they can find new tricks up their sleeves …. damn you “incognito mode” on Google Chrome!)



One comment

  1. A very novel take on your blog — the emphasis on the technology.

    Change a few things around and I’ve been there: add the earlier MySpace craze that my oldest was wrapped up in for a while (until I figured out how to hack the site and could keep her on the right track…and scare myself silly with the things her friends-of-friends aid and got up to), change the author of the novels, and replace boyfriend visits (I am a guy after all) with drinking.

    I very much like the “poor, poor kids” comment. My parents were so naive that they saw nothing, understood nothing, and I had more freedom than my kids will get. Within reason of course. The goal isn’t to tame and secure them, but to let them grow and branch out with increasing freedoms and an understanding of how to have safe fun.

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