While preparing for my next lesson on digital citizenship, I reread an article last week discussing sexting as the new first base in dating relationships. I was appalled by what the article said but not surprised. I read articles like this all the time so that I can be sharing with students the dangers of social media. Yet I instantly shook my head and said to myself, “My own kids will never be in the situation to do this.”

Drugs. Sexting. Alcohol. Dating violence. One online search would find a plethora of articles discussing high school students and these dangers. And right there, I stopped myself.

Do I really know how my kids would handle themselves if put in one of these situations?

Like most parents, we believe we’re raising really good kids. Like most parents, we believe we have really good kids who would not give into peer pressure.

Raising teenagers is tough in itself. Add a preteen to the equation, and there are days I just want to pull my hair out. There are days where my own kids are rolling their eyes at me and not following the household rules. There are days where I wonder, “Are these my kids?”

One battle we do have to face surrounds our preteen and social media. She wants to have social media accounts; however, the answer is always “No, not until you are 13.” The reason: she isn’t mature enough or responsible enough to have this added to her life.

From a very early age, all of our children are taught to be digitally responsible and positive online. When the time is right for her to have the privilege of social media, she will have the same boundaries and guidelines as our oldest daughter had at her age.

Don’t get me wrong. There definitely is joy in raising our children, but our kids know that we are involved in every aspect of their life. Being actively involved gives me the confidence to believe that, when our kids are put into unlikely situations, they will make the right choices. However, before saying yes to our kids, I often think to myself…

Can I trust my kids in this situation? Are they mature enough?

We must not only educate our children, but also build trust for both worlds they are connected in—the online and the offline. To truly build trust, I wholeheartedly believe that we need to be actively involved with our children’s’ lives.

How can we do this? By asking questions. Our kids would probably be the first to tell you, “Our parents are overly involved in their lives.” Yet they will never waiver on knowing we are present. Here are some tips:

  • Know your kids’ friends. When they go out with their friends, it’s alright to ask, “Who is going to be there?”
  • Know your kids’ friends’ hobbies.
  • Ask questions. Don’t take “Fine,” “Whatever,” or even “It was boring” for an answer. Keep asking the questions, show interest in what your kids are doing.
  • Keep checking your kids’ grades.
  • Set a curfew. I often tell our daughter, “Whether you like it or not, normally nothing good happens after midnight.”
  • Check your kids’ social media accounts often. Not only check these accounts, keep their passwords, discuss with them oversharing and make sure they understand their self-worth isn’t found in the number of likes.

I know that my kids aren’t perfect. I know that my kids do make poor choices. However, as parents, we must trust the foundation we have set in raising our children. Ultimately though, we cannot disengage in their lives. We must stay present and involved.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

Worried About Your Child’s Digital Habits?

Attend “Keeping Your Child Safe in a Digital World” on Thursday, November 16 at Lincoln Southeast High School. Ryan Sothan, outreach coordinator for the Nebraska Attorney General, will discuss safe social media use, dangerous apps, cyberbullying, and resources that can guide monitoring youth online behaviors. This event is free to attend.

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