When I was in middle school, I remember trotting out my bike just about every summer afternoon and riding to the local park to meet Tom and Ken and my other best friends for a few hours of play and horsing around. We lived in a small, country town, and as long as I promised to be home by 8 o’clock, my mom was fine with it. Not that she didn’t care; I guess she trusted me and my friends and to some small extent maybe kept her fingers crossed. Looking back, we were good kids, good friends, and my mom didn’t really have much to worry about. But there were discussions and stories and secrets that my buds and I passed back and forth on those afternoons, the stuff of adolescence that mothers didn’t really need to know about. And she never found out (at least not that I know.)
Not that I’m getting all nostalgic or anything, but fast forward a few decades and now I’m the parent with the adolescent kids (11 and 13). And it’s feeling like life has changed quite a bit, especially in the knowing what’s going on in my kids’ lives department. Both of them have Facebook pages; both of them know that my wife and I have the logins and passwords to their accounts. And I’m not saying that we are constantly checking what they’re up to over there, but every now and then, our view is that it’s appropriate and important for us to take a peek.
So here’s the deal: I know at some point, my kids, despite knowing that “nothing is private” online, are going to start sharing private stuff online. There have already been some forays into that territory, and I’ve seen enough on other FB pages to know that there will come a time when I find out something that I probably didn’t need or want to know if the first place. Something that I’d probably sleep better at night not having read.
And I can imagine other parents in my shoes. It must be akin to the people who were breaking codes created by Germany’s Enigma Machine back in World War 2, wondering what, if any, action they should take when they did start getting actionable information in the communications they were intercepting, not wanting to let the Germans know they had broken the code, waiting for the really big secret to come through.
I know I’m not the only one struggling with this stuff. And I haven’t found much about this in the parenting manual. But I am wondering, how does this change things? My sense is it’s not quite the same as the journals many of us kept as kids. And I know bazillions of us made it through just fine without our parents knowing even a fraction of the thoughts and actions of our lives growing up. But still…