It has been my goal each morning for the last 3 or so years to do all I can to protect my kids, especially my two teenaged daughters. To protect them from me! From my Depression and constant Anxiety. Psychological studies have shown that girls are twice as likely to develop Depression than boys and gender is the strongest predictor of depressive symptoms that scientists have found so far. The second strongest predictor is having a Mother with depression. So, basically, my illness is the biggest risk to them over which I have any control. So I do all I can to keep it under control. We don’t hide it from them though. After much research into the the benefits of honesty in a case like this, my husband and I decided to be forthcoming about what’s wrong with Mom so that we could do all we could to convince them to come us the very second they felt overly sad or worried about anything at all. My greatest hope is they stay just as happy and bubbly as they are, but the second greatest is they will come talk to me if they’re feeling bad. I never had anyone to discuss it with. And it could have made all the difference.
In my continued effort to protect my girls who are now fully engaged in the on-line world with cellphones and Instagram accounts, I am making it a priority to learn all I can about social media and what the kids are getting up to on their phones. See, it’s pretty easy to monitor the desktop computer. No problem. I have that baby locked down tight. But the phones…that’s another story. I had no idea how hard it is to monitor a cell phone even with very expensive monitoring software. Especially the iPhone. I’ve been behind Apple in their public spat with the government over security. But now that their product security is in MY way, I’m thinking of switching my kids’ phones to Android or basically any other phone… which are all much easier to lock down that the iPhone. Given how easy it is for these kids to hide apps and inappropriate material on the phones, it is a must to have some kind of remote monitoring. For instance, there is an app out there called “Poof” that just makes other apps on their phone (like SnapChat or YikYak, where much of the worst behavior between our kids is happening) just disappear off of the UI with one push of a button.
I made the “good parental” decision to get a recently published book on teenagers and social medial. It is a must read if you don’t already have this all under control. Here is a link: American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers. But what was a good decision for a parent was a very bad decision for an inveterate worrier. The author interviews girls from all over the country, anywhere from middle school age up to the later teens years. And many were from a town not too far from where we live. And it is horrifying to hear to what what these girls are exposed and how peer pressure causes them to react. According to the author, a full 60% of 13 year old girls in America have been exposed to pornography, much of it depicting graphic violence toward women. Further, the girls expect that boys will request inappropriate photos or texts from them, and if they aren’t propositioned, many feel girls bad about it. Sexting is a real thing in MIDDLE SCHOOL. And most of the girls interviewed ride a fine line between being socially rejected for reacting badly to these offenses (as defined by being angry or upset by them) or for participating, aka reacting like a “slut.” Apparently “Slut Shaming” is also a thing with girls as young as Middle School. As if the world weren’t scary enough. Now these girls are expecting to be sexually objectified by boys and worry about their popularity if they aren’t!
I spoke to my 13 year old about it this weekend. Simultaneous to my reading this book and becoming ever more concerned, she asked me to buy her a Middle School Formal dress this weekend. If you had seen her first choices, Holy Inappropriate Batman! The models on the website she liked (promgirl.com) were not going to any middle school formal, or even prom for that matter. They all looked 25+ and like they might make it in the porn industry no problem. And they almost all had DD size fake breasts. This is the style my daughter wants to emulate for her 8th grade dance! So I asked her point blank if she’d ever been asked for inappropriate pictures or texts from a boy. She said no, and that to her knowledge none of her friends had either. I asked her what she would do, and she said without hesitation she would reject it. I believed her. Maybe I’m naive but it was something in her tone. I said I was proud of her, and I wanted her to come talk to me if it happened and she agreed.
My last words to her on the subject were these: She has a very high standard by which to judge what is appropriate behavior from boys. The bar is her Dad. I said, “Any boy you might get “involved” with should live up to Daddy’s standards…he’s honest, respectful and kind. To everyone. And he thinks the sun rises and sets over your head. If you are with a boy who doesn’t treat you the way Daddy would, LOSE HIM.” She agreed…for now anyway. But I’m still watching. And I’m still losing sleep over that phone. I will get it locked down even if it costs me a fortune to switch it out. It’ll be a very small price to pay for their safety and my anxiety.