I don’t know if it’s because our teenagers are boys, or if it’s just their personalities, but neither one has yet expressed a desire to be on social media. They both have smartphones (although with very limited wifi and no data), and they know their way around a computer for sure. But they haven’t once attempted to create a Facebook or Instagram account. And it’s probably for the best.
But I am friends with a few of their classmates online. Each of them friended or followed me years ago, long before any of them turned 13, the legal age for getting a Facebook account. And I’ve stayed online friends with each of them for one little reason. Not to interact with them, or because I’m friends with their moms.
I’ve remained online friends with them for one simple reason: so that I could see what the world is like for my kids.
I have a backstage pass to the events that these kids choose to put out there. I’ve been able to read the class gossip and girl talk, and I’ve been able to do it undetected, for the most part. I’ve read about year-end trips, broken bones, homework, and summer adventures.
I’ve seen 14 year old girls raving about 50 Shades of Grey, I’ve watched a 12 year come out in real time, and I’ve silently cringed while reading status updates that proclaim to the world that “moms at work, im lonely, anybody wanna hang?” underneath pouty-faced reflections of faces in bathroom mirrors.
And now I’m seeing young girls posting pictures and memes that refer to how sexually skilled their boyfriends are. On one hand, I’m glad to have this window into the culture that my boys are growing up in, unfiltered except through the lens of social media. On the other hand, I’m starting to want to bury my head in the sand.
When we were 14, it was a different world. And it was far from perfect. But I can’t help but feel that there was more of a sense of innocence for longer.
When we were 14, men hitting women for pleasure (or for any reason!) was a terrible thing. When we were 14, we knew not to tell people we were home alone. When we were 14, we weren’t advertising ourselves with duck faces and cleavage.
When we were 14, you could find us climbing trees, or talking long into the night at sleepovers, or working at our weekend job, or babysitting for the neighbours, or talking on the phone with the phone cord stretched as far away from the kitchen as possible. You could find us wandering through the woods with our best friends, or staying up late reading, or finishing our chores, or trying our hardest to get out of doing whatever volunteer stuff our parents had signed us up for.
I love what technology can do for us, but I’m not so excited about what it’s doing to us.
It has opened up a whole new world to our kids, but it hasn’t held anything back.
And I wonder what it’s doing to this generation. Have we cut their childhood short? Have we taken away the enjoyment of life that innocence brings? Have we given them too much, too soon?
Is it even possible to avoid it? Or is inevitable?