Life is full of double standards, and here’s one of mine: I can admit I protect (and sometimes micromanage) my daughters, 11 and 9, in a way I probably wouldn’t if I had boys.
When I was dating my now-wife in high school — yes, high school sweethearts! — I used to snicker when she had to get home by midnight to turn off her dad’s alarm clock. If she didn’t beat the alarm, he said he’d go out looking for her, call police, call hospitals. I said I’d never be that kind of dad.
I am that kind of dad. More so because I have girls.
Why? Well, for one thing, I’m fully aware there are boys who will try to take advantage of them. Not all boys, but some.
There are also predators/monsters in the real world and online, enormous pressures around drugs and alcohol, and bullying (in recent weeks, a 10-year-old Illinois girl, Ashlynn Conner, hanged herself after being bullied at school). I know these things apply to boys as well, but I just think the implications are compounded for girls.
It’s not that I don’t trust my daughters. It’s that I know what kids are like. I was one. Kids are kids, not adults. They will make mistakes. They will make bad decisions sometimes. There are so many peer pressures.
What I tell my girls is we’re instantly accessible whenever they’re in a bind. Text us, call us, tweet us — we’ll be there. No questions. No judgments. (Well, questions will come later.)
Mobile devices are a blessing for this generation, allowing kids to be much more accessible to their parents if they’re in harm’s way. But adding social media to the mix does create more trigger points.
The extent of our bad “social media” growing up: crank calls and rolled-up pieces of paper (e.g., “Johnny loves Sarah”) passed around class. Now there’s the quick distribution of voyeuristic photos from a party that go “viral” and Mean Girl tactics (“You’re fat,” “You’re ugly,” “You’re Stupid”) that don’t end in the schoolyard but continue on Facebook.
We let our daughters use social media — there are many virtues to it — but monitor it very closely.
Sure kids have to have some sense of forging an identify outside their parents. We will give ours some line. But my blinders will not be on. Denial and ignorance do no good. As parents, you have to anticipate and react. Particularly with girls.
My angels won’t understand all the decisions we make until they have grown into women and parents.
In the meantime, all we can do is protect them — and hopefully empower them at the same time.