Posted by: Lisa | September 24, 2011

Holding Tight & Letting Go

Twice in the past week I’ve seen Facebook in the news…and not because of its annoying changes, either (that’s a whole other story!).

Apparently a 12-year-old girl posted racy photos of herself along with personal contact information.  Her father found out and immediately deleted her account, but she immediately started a new account, so her father’s next course of action was the sue Facebook for making it so easy for underage users to get accounts (the minimum age is 13).  I saw opinions on this matter ranging from, “the dad needs to be a parent and learn how to control his child; it’s not Facebook’s fault” to “parents can’t keep tabs on their adolescent children 24/7 and that kids are going to do what they’re going to do.”

Then this week a Statesville, NC, man was arrested after a mother saw inappropriate, sexual conversations on Facebook between her daughter and a neighbor.  During an interview with authorities, the girl claimed that she’d been assaulted twice in the past few months.

These stories are just two of many like them, and they lead me to wonder, “What are we as parents and as members of society to do about this kind of thing?”  Are these simply cases of bad (or even just busy) parents who allow (or don’t try to stop) their children from these types of encounters?  Should Facebook and/or the government be held responsible?

In Facebook’s defense, I will say that if it isn’t through that medium it will be through another, so I don’t think banning or shutting down a particular social networking site is the solution.  I think our nation is way too suit-happy, so suing probably won’t really solve the problem except for giving the dad of the 12-year-old some extra cash.  (And while he’s preparing his legal case & going to court, one has to wonder where his daughter is & what she is doing.)

On the flip side, “it takes a village to raise a child.”  I can’t do it alone.  Doesn’t society have a responsibility to protect its children – to keep them safe and help them succeed?  As a mom of a 2-year-old, I feel like I still have nearly complete control over that to which my son is exposed.  But when he’s 12?  As much as I’d like to be in the loop on my child’s constant whereabouts, encounters, and experiences, I know that is unrealistic and even unhealthy.  I already see the tight grip I have had on him beginning to loosen, sometimes by my choice and sometimes against my wishes.  I’m a single mom, so I can’t control what happens when he’s with his dad.  I want Jacob to be exposed to different adults and peers, so he attends preschool once a week.  He spends time in childcare when I participate in church-related activities.  He’s already coming home using words I didn’t know he knew (not always bad – just words I didn’t realize he had heard!) and telling me about things I didn’t know he’d ever seen.  What’s next?  A Facebook profile?  I certainly hope not, but at some point Jacob’s going to be making many of his own decisions, some with which I might not agree.

I like the little bubble in which my 2-year-old and I live, where I am his entire source of comfort and protection.  I’m his favorite person, and that feels pretty darn good!  It’s a scary world out there… and perhaps the scariest part of all is that I know I love him so much that I’m going to gradually let go, trusting that I’ve done everything I could have done to raise him right.  But for now I’m going to keep holding his hand when we cross the street…and keep him off Facebook.

Parents often talk about the younger generation as if they didn’t have anything to do with it.  ~Haim Ginott

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children.  One is roots.  The other is wings.  ~Hodding Carter, Jr.

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