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Social Networking & The Mama Bear

Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot, nine days old.

Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it in the pot, nine days old.

I like my porridge hot.

And why wait 9 days to tell this story?

After a long 3 days, I woke to discover that my 10-year-old had a facebook account.

I can tell you right now, that I have counted to 10, then 30and one hundred. Rest easy, I’ve deleted her account – including the hideous picture of mom, fast asleep, titled “Always Sleeping.” My little sister, the only one having any sense to comment: “She’s going to be mad at you. ;P”

Half sleeping, half eavesdropping on breakfast conversation, I was seething.

I blog, facebook, tweet, and text but when my parental rights are sidestepped by a pair of uncles, Mama Bear comes out to play.

Social networking has its place (with purpose or not) in the lives of  many, including the comfortable palms, thumbs, ear canals, and pupils of my household. So whilst I confront the culprits with a mere question, DENIAL is not a river in Egypt, Denial is the muse for this post. As a mother and educator, I want this to be a teachable moment for anyone who’s interested, or the victim of brothers without children (sounds a lot like, wars without borders).

Crushing dreams.

My daughter is crushed that I’ve single-handedly erased her mini-facebook adventure. As I deleted her posts, pictures, and information, I was equally devastated. Mostly because she probably had more friends in 24 hours than I had in a week. So why should I feel guilt over being her parent and protector? I believe that social networking takes some immense responsibility and sometimes, that comes with learned lessons. I’d like to spare her some heart-ache & embarrassment. My teenage sons have illegal accounts and on more than one occasion, I’ve had them delete their accounts, only to see them merely re-activated or to have opened a new account.

What’s a mom to do?

Create a partnership with freedom to explore.

As a single-parent, trying to maintain the head-of-household status, sometimes it’s a compromise. They have facebook accounts created under the guidance of cousins, friends, and uncles. They also get to friend mom – not a choice, a privilege. With inappropriate posts or comments, they know they may suffer the consequence of a comment or intimate conversation with their lifetime stalker – you got it, mom. A price they willingly pay as it comes with being connected to friends so they might tell each other when…

they’ve had the worst cafeteria lunch,

how cute or swagged they look in a cheesy bathroom photo.

update a relationship status every other week,

or to have mom butt in on a 27 comment conversation to say…

“Go to bed or I will deactivate your phone. Love you.”

(I personally, love that one.)

Link in. Unplug.

I once walked into Safeway as a passerby stared at my son, then commented – “Nowadays, they’re coming out born like that.”

I didn’t quite catch her drift until she laughed and clarified that my son was plugged in to technology by his thumbs, eyes, and ears. Sure I took offense (not to her, but my lack of parenting), but it also had me stopping in my tracks to have him “unplug” so we could have a conversation while we shopped for our groceries. Most times when I am irrational, it takes some agitation before I gather my wits and think about how to creatively approach a situation.

With social networking, it involves ensuring that you have developed a relationship and alternate ways to communicate with your children or any member you connect with. Today, I sat with my daughter and asked her how she got her account. Lucky for me, we have built trust without fear. She did not hesitate to explain every detail, while I listened. I’d already scolded my brothers, indicating my permission was not given and they should know better. It took me all of 10 minutes to deactivate her account and tell her what I was willing to do. With a smile on her face and pep in her thumbs (ipod), she took to searching for “family social networks” and “social networking for kids.” We came across this link to acceptable sites for kids. While I don’t vouch for any of them, I gave some responsibility back to my daughter to explore them and see which she might like to try.

She has picked imbee, yoursphere, and scuttlepad as potential kid-friendly social networks. It’s actually exciting! We sat together and set up user accounts, with parental access. imbee requires a $1 verification fee, I was glad to pay because we are doing this to encourage safe risk-taking and exploring of technology as a resource. Many of these sites will allow her to blog, create small networks of friends, and be expressive. All great attributes I encourage her to develop and refine. She is creative, an amazing artist-musician, conversationist, and loves to laugh! She’s shy. Yea, I know, how does my description of her equal shy? It takes her time to be comfortable and nurture her spirit to be her total self around people. She’s like every other young, adolescent, coming into her own.

Choose.

I want my daughter and sons to know that they have choices. With their choices, comes added responsibility. But I also have a role to nurture their curiosities, inspire them to explore their opportunities, and guide them as they seek my advice or live to learn that as a parent, I will always be involved – to an extent. I choose today, to embrace technology as a resource and build an understanding with my daughter, that she too, has a choice. For now, it just doesn’t include facebook. 😉

To each his own.

Pease porridge hot.

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