Column - Nothing private about Internet“Back when I was young…” I hate to admit it, but I can finally relate to the conversations my parents started out with those words.
By: Tara Bitzan, Alexandria Echo Press
“Back when I was young…”
I hate to admit it, but I can finally relate to the conversations my parents started out with those words.
It’s unbelievable how much things can change from one generation to the next, and parents have the toughest time coming to terms with those changes. Kids live in the here and now and no matter how much you try to tell them how things “used to be,” they’re only concerned about the way things are today.
So when my parents were telling me how lucky I was to have or do this or that, I really didn’t get what they were saying. All my friends had those things and were doing those things, so wasn’t it just the way it was?
Now it’s a different story. I’m on the parent end, and I find myself telling my girls about all the things we didn’t have or didn’t do “back when I was growing up.”
Sadly, I can’t say my kids have things “better” than my generation did growing up. In fact, I am sad they are growing up in a generation of fast-paced technology that in my opinion is consuming too many people in too many ways.
Things didn’t change gradually from my generation to this one. The changes came in a full speed whirlwind that has left many of us spinning in circles trying to keep up. Cell phones with texting options and Internet, complete with blogs, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and other social networks have created an entirely new way of communicating and have required parents to learn a new way of parenting.
When should your child get his own e-mail account or cell phone? When do you allow a child to set up her own Facebook or MySpace page? How do you oversee and “parent” all of these things?
A parent’s job is to protect the child. It used to be that when a child was home, the parents knew where they were – and usually what they were doing. It was that simple. We didn’t even have a cordless phone, so my conversations with friends were usually within earshot of my parents.
Today, just because kids are home doesn’t necessarily mean you know where they are. If they are surfing the Internet, they could be thousands of miles away. While you are able to monitor if they are smoking, drinking or doing drugs while under your roof, it’s not as easy to monitor if they are breaking rules while on the Internet.
Yes, the Internet opens up a world of possibilities for learning and exploring, but sadly, it also presents serious risks.
According to one study, in a one-year time period:
•Thirty-four percent of children ages 10 to 17 were exposed to unwanted sexual material on the Internet.
•One in seven received an online sexual solicitation.
•Twenty-three percent were asked by someone to meet somewhere; 11 percent were called on the phone; 3 percent were sent offline mail; 4 percent were given money, gifts, etc.
Kids make mistakes. They experiment. They try things. The problem with this new technology is that a teenager’s mistake today may haunt them the rest of their life. It’s easy to feel more secure sitting in front of a computer than having face-to-face relationships, so some youth let down their guard.
In a September speech, President Obama warned students to be careful what they post on sites such as Facebook, stating, “Whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life.”
Because kids live in the here and now, they have a hard time seeing the damage to their future that Internet postings can have. While it may be fun and games now, it could create hardship and regret in the years to come.
College admissions officers and employers have admitted to checking social networking sites for information on prospective students or employees. Attorneys search online for information about plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses and much of what they find can be used in court.
A simple thing to remember – for all ages – there’s nothing private about the Internet.