US News and World Report ran a nice article on how parents can
decipher their kids' obsession with the world of MySpace, Facebook,
Xanga, et al. Many parents are nervously wringing their hands as
their children create sexified online alter egos and post suggestive
photos that scream, "Exploit me!" Clearly, letting kids go wild isn't
a good response, but nor is doing an all-out lockdown on such
behavior. What to do here?
Jada isn't old enough to make a MySpace page, at least to my
knowledge. (Although I did catch her the other day working the mouse
ratherly adeptly, and then wheeling around and acting innocent when
she saw that I was watching her.) So it's not a hypothetical question
for me, never mind how many years I have to form a response.
I'd have to figure that our response as parents will be to work hard
to give our children safe outlets to express themselves, no matter how
rebellious and inane those expressions might seem to us. To
constantly tell them the truth about what's good and beautiful about
them, so they don't go trawling in all the wrong places to find that
affirmation. To ask good questions about who their friends are and
what sorts of stuff they're into and why. And to be absolutely clear
about boundaries that are unacceptable to us as their parents:
revealing photos, crude talk, and mean behavior being three.
Easier said than done, right? Who knows how pre-teens and teens will
socialize by the time our children are of age. The principles are the
same, however faster kids seem to be growing up or however
sophisticated their outlets seem to have become: it may be your space,
but as your parent, it's my responsibility.