Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kidz These Days

It probably comes as no surprise that I am a big fan of Dan Savage, the Seattle-based sex advise columnist whose philosophy could largely be summarized as play nice with friends, lovers, and strangers. I'd say it was the Golden Rule except he does advocate "Do unto others what they ask you to do to them even if you wouldn't ever in a million years want to have that done to yourself." Which, you have to admit, is a rather significant variation.

How Dan enters this blog is that he routinely fields questions from people who have been prowling around in someone else's online space and found stuff that terrifies/horrifies/saddens/maddens/freaks them out. To which Savage points out, you wouldn't have known about this if you hadn't been a slimy, spying twink hacking into something you had no right to poke into.Then at the same time, I keep reading links, posts, articles for parents and about parents where the story is identical, just change the players. Parents hack the computers and online accounts of their off spring and find things that just twist their knickers into hysterical bunches.

Turns out our teenagers are really horrific people with crude sensabilities, miserable grammar, no ability to spell whatsoever, and about the same sexual mores as minx in heat. They are not like us. Kids these days just do not know how to behave. They listen to awful music, dress in ways that encourage licentious behaviour, and eat poorly. They drink when they shouldn't, make bad choices regarding companions, and *gasp* talk about sex drugs and rock and roll all the fing time.

Surprise surprise! The generation gap isn't different or more extreme than in any prior generation. It's just gone digital! Technology enables the snoop parent to actually walk in the shoes of their spawn, dive into the sticky morasse of teenage lives. It's icky. It's a bit scary. It's oft times stupid, and it's sometimes dangerous. However, there is really nothing new here.

So just keep moving. Do not hack your child's account. Do not try to log into their Facebook page. Resist the tempation to look over their virtual shoulders. Just because you can does not mean you should. You are not helping your child become a good citizen of the networked world by becoming yourself a twink and a spy. In fact, you suck. You are modelling the worst kind of trollish behaviour.

We teach our kids to be safe and healthy online the same way we teach them everything else. Model smart, supportive, safe behaviour online. Participate in discussions for which you have passion and knowledge. Lurk in those for which you have an interest but are as yet a n00b. Friend people you know, ignore people you don't, follow people who interest you, but don't stalk them. Only put online information and photos which you do not mind sharing with absolutely everyone in the world including the government, your mother, and the creepy guy that stands at the bus-stop breathing heavy as the nubiles parade past. Block people who send you spam, ask you for money, or solicit you for sexual acts (unless you actually want to deliver them). Stop being a monkey and clicking everything! Avoid flame wars, do not feed trolls, avoid breaking Godwin's law, make a regular habit of doing a vanity search on the major search engines to make sure your name isn't being taken in vain. Own your own domain.

Can you do all that? If you can't, get your own house in order before you start trying to tell your teenager how to behave online. If you can and do, then make sure your kids know it. It doesn't hurt to market your blog feed, web site, Twitter handle, and Facebook profile to your kids. Link up with them when they let you (it goes in phases), follow them, read and comment in meaningful ways on what they post. It's okay to friend their friends IF you consider them friends in the Real World. Same with the parents of their friends. When your kid drops you like a hot potato or puts you into a ghetto circle where nothing is visible, be patient. They get over it and start talking to you again eventually.

Will your children do something stupid online? Of course they will. Will it be a part of their permanent record? Yep. Welcome to the 21st century. Are the college admittance officers and employers of the future going to take all this drunken photography, illiterate rambling, and questionable linking seriously? Not if they want to keep their own youthful puffing-without-inhaling on the downlow.


Anonymous said...

LOL!! As a partnered gay guy (my partner is a chef - I'm a foodie) AND a Savage/Toast fan (since the Seattle days) I sy GOOD FOR YOU and your brood!

judith said...

I agree! I have two kids, a girl 29 and a boy 26. I'm linked to the daughter through her blog and FB. I comment on her blog and her FB. Yes she puts stuff on there I wouldn't dare to put on my own and I don't agree with, but she's grown! The boy doesn't have a blog and will not 'friend' me on FB. That's fine, we're real life friends and that's better than FB friends any day. All I can do is to remain to be a good example to them.