Facebook and the new Soviet Union

Isn't that mommy taking off her clothes?

Everybody knows that we need to protect our kids. Back in the 70s and before, the biggest fears for kids were things like polio, razor blades in apples and the occasional abduction. The 80s were all about kids being kidnapped and someone slipping drugs in their drinks or candies. The 90s and the beginning of the 21 century focused our fears on pedophiles and drugs. Today, Social Media has become the new danger entry point. From Chris Hanson setting up sickos on chat rooms to cyber bullying, we think we’ve met the scariest predator of all.

Lee says: I have been known to say things like ‘Social Media is my bitch’ and ‘We are not Social Media leaders. We are the grunts in the trenches.’ One thing that Paul and I have been clear on is that Social Media opens us up to all sorts of relationship dilemmas that we have never had to think about. Primarily, we have been wary of children in this unregulated world. I like to think about it as sending a kid to a mall that has all the regular stores along with an Amsterdamesque food court offering your finest herb, a red light district and a couple of carts in the middle with a wide selection of dildos and phone accessories. There is nothing to stop them from going to pick up a bong, cock ring and lip gloss from Macy’s.

As a therapist, I worked with pedophiles for 10 years. Yes, I was there to rehabilitate them and I can honestly say, some of these men did make incredible strides and learn some boundaries that they didn’t have before. What I learned from them is that opportunity and availability were their friends when they were on the prowl. This may seem really gross to some readers but the reality is if you can’t think like them, you can’t protect your kids from them. You need to ask yourself, ‘How is my kid vulnerable to the outside world?’

This is in no way a call for keeping your kids home and boarding up your windows. This belief is not going to keep your children safe from internet or texting predators. Many parents think that keeping their children at home is tantamount to raising them trauma free. They would be wrong.

We have a 17 year old who, like every other 17 year old, has grown up in a world of cell phones and internet. She knows no other world. As her parents, we have had to ride the fence of keeping her protected and making her way in this world. We have had to teach her things that we only learned as adults and our parents still squirm thinking about.

She also has had a MySpace which we monitored and then Facebook. I created her Facebook page. I set up her account and I monitor the photos she has on there. I have even made her delete a picture that I found too provocative (you know those pics the girls take in the bathroom pointing down at them while they look pouty that every girl on the make has. My apologies if you have one of those.) I am her Facebook friend only because I friended me and her Dad through her page. Paul and I occasionally review her text messages on her phone and always have an eye on her Facebook interactions.

Recently, my 10 year old niece informed me that all her friends have Facebook pages. I told her that their parents ‘hate their kids’. Too much? I went on to explain to her what had recently happened to me and her mom with our crazy family member who attacked us on Facebook and that kids are not ready to open themselves up to that stuff. I don’t know if it sunk in but I know that she is now years from every getting her own page.

I don’t care if our daughter thinks she lives in the old Soviet Union. I don’t care if she thinks it’s unfair. I don’t care if she gets angry. My concern is if she is learning to protect herself and makes good choices. This is how I love her. She can hate me as long as she’s safe.

Paul says: I wish my daughter would friend me. Hello. Hello. Will you be my friend?

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