A teenage girl, the internet and me

So I've almost survived my first year of a daughter in Year 7.  Actually, more accurately she's survived it.  A whole new school.  Totally new friends.  And oh, aren't the friends the big thing for some teenage girls?  It was for me.  Filled my brain totally.  Unfortunately it wasn't filled with French vocab or my English novels but the people side of junior high was consuming.

The new challenge that we've faced this year is managing the internet.  More specifically the ubiquitous access to the internet.  3G + teenage girls = bad, bad combo.

My daughter bought herself an iPod touch earlier this year.  She had a very boring Nokia phone that we gave her for Christmas last year (her face literally fell when she opened it) but her friends mostly have iPhones (usually mum and dad's old ones) with 3G access.  So constant access to the internet.  And constant access to social media apps like Kik and Viber.  This means you can constantly be in touch with your friends.  And your parents have NO IDEA what the discussion is about.  It seems most parents are either unaware (I provide the benefit of the doubt here) or don't care (now I get grumpy) that their kids are constantly accessing whatever they like on the net.  Not only is the net not a lovely place but sometimes the way girls communicate with one another on it is not very pleasant.

Back to the iPod touch.  When she's at home she could access the internet through our Wi-Fi.  But I said we wouldn't give her internet access.  And the unhappiness started.  Why?  Because texting was so 2012, as is Facebook and all communication among her group was happening through these apps. (Seriously the technology changes with lightening fast speed.  Totally different having a boy in year 7 two years ago).  And she was missing out on stuff.  I guess I could have said no, but as I'm learning quickly, having a teenager is not all about me and what suits me.  Compromises need to be made because your kids have to see that you've listened to them properly and that you're willing to trust them  (and plus it gives you something to take away when it goes pear shaped - hee, hee!).

So we let her have access to the one app that her friends use to communicate with each other and locked everything else (including Safari).  Check out the restriction setting - it is a bewtiful thang.

5 good things I've learnt from this tale.

1.  It's good to have a high horse to make parenting judgements from.  Kids like that you have clear and high standards.

2.  It's good to get down from the high horse occasionally to show that you think your child is an actual person.

3.  It's good to keep on top of technology.  It's not cool to just throw your hands up and say 'Oh they're so good with that computery stuff - I just can't keep up with it'.  Sure you're not going to understand it all, but know enough to look competent.  We all download stuff through the same apple ID.  I have the power (and the money) but I also get to keep an eye on what they're buying.  I've also enjoyed (mostly) getting into their new music.

4.  It's good to keep talking to your kids.  More gooder is that you're available for the talking.  Hiding in my bed reading a book is my favourite past-time - and interestingly the kids have discovered this and steadily trickle in for a quiet chat on their own.

5.  It's good to acknowledge that you won't know everything that's going on, because when things go wrong you aren't a hopeless parent.  You're just straddling the weird world of living with a young person who is still dependent on you, but is at the same time working out how to be an independent person.


Jean said…
Welcome to the wonderful world of parenting a teenage girl. Like you, ours has access on her smart phone to Kik and ... I can't remember the other one ... apps her friends use to communicate with each other. While we haven't locked other apps, there are clear rules about who she is allowed to "friend" on these apps (only close, trusted friends - though they still talk about "stupid stuff", as she says); she has to ask permission before joining up with any social networking site or app; and she's not allowed to use them too late at night. She and I have very open lines of communication (she is honest and confesses when she misuses one of her apps) and she is careful (e.g. opting out of a conversation when it turns to "who is going out with who?" or "So and so is such a ..."). It is teaching her to be accountable, transparent and different from her friends. I would handle it very differently with a child who wasn't so open, I think - so much of parenting comes down to the particular child, doesn't it? I love your 5 points, thank you.
Karen said…
A question...do you think this is more an issue for teenage girls rather than boys? I ask for selfish reasons...it's a while before I'll have a teenage daughter...but having a teenage son is much more on my current radar :) The current major source of technology disagreement in our house with him is around the amount of time spent playing games on the iPad, but I just thought I would ask what you have observed...
Jean said…
Hi Karen, From my (very) limited observation of teenage boys so far, it's not the social networking but the risks of inappropriate viewing (not that my son has given me any reason to worry) that bother me. But I know many of my year 9 daughter's male friends from school spend a lot of time on social networking sites, so my guess is it depends on the boy.

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