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Rachee and Madison are a Mom and teen duo in the Philadelphia area. Rachee is a blogger and social media enthusiast and Madison is a fun loving teen learning the ropes.
May 23, 2016
Just when you think, "it can’t happen to me," it happens. A few years ago when Madison, my daughter, was 13 years old, she had posted some private information online including her cell phone number. She came to me, frightened and upset, once strangers stated to call her cell phone number. I was so upset; in fact I was livid! We had been to conferences and workshops in which online safety was discussed multiple times and in multiple ways, yet the advice went unheeded and my teen found herself in a vulnerable position. My daughter was not alone in oversharing.
Since that scare, we have adopted some rules to approach the online world we navigate. The Internet and digital world plays such a huge role in our lives and it would be untrue for me to insist that we are not daily social media checkers. For peace of mind and to exercise some limits we have developed these rules.
This should be a no brainer but we are both guilty of oversharing. As a blogger and public worker, there are times when my contact information is all over the web. We have tried to limit what information we share and have set up daily alerts (Google alerts) to receive e-mails should we be mentioned online outside of our postings.
I do give my teen her space but she knows that I monitor her online activity. I trust that I have raised an intelligent person but there are times when her actions do not mirror what I know she should be aware of. Having access to her e-mail and social media accounts allows me to spot check her activity and be able to discuss actions that causes concern.
Being able to talk with Madison about her online experiences without her fearing any judgement is key. This is not to say that there are no consequences for bad behavior but I do want her to be able to come to me to problem solve so that the issue can be corrected in a favorable way. This also allows for me to coach her on HOW to be a responsible internet user. She was recently involved in an online twitter beef (yes, that’s a real thing) and with the assistance of the parents of the other teen involved we were able to refocus the behavior on Twitter and help resolve the issue.
Even being as tech savvy as I think I am, I still don't understand how to navigate all of the sites that Madison visits. Knowing my limitations, I tell Madison that I expect her to use the internet with the rules we have placed. I also have her show me how to use the sites that she frequents so that should an issue arise, I will be able to check up on her. Using parental control software like Net Nanny® also helps me to keep an eye on what sites she’s visiting by sending me weekly reports right to my email.
After Madison’s over share scare, I reached out to a few friends for some advice. Most of my friends felt I should limit all of Madison’s access to social media and restrict her cell phone. That may work for some people but for my family, I want her to have access online and to learn from her mistakes. We changed Madison’s number and her passwords. As a family, we had more conversations about online use, including discussions about what she thinks she should do in different scenarios. I understand that my handling of this may not be what others have done but if works for us. When I first brought this topic up with Madison, she initially said that the internet knows about her life, so why bother. After further probing, she admits that she now takes time to consider everything she is writing and posting. Madison also feels more prepared for times when she may encounter a situation that is uncomfortable or unfamiliar. I feel confident that should my teen have an issue she will have some tools to deal.