Parenting was so much simpler before cell phones and social media.
I remember the day well. We had an outfit picked out; baby blue corduroy overalls and a brand new backpack. She’d be going to a private school so at least I wasn’t sending her off alone on a bus. But I still had to drop her off and say goodbye after being a stay at home mom for six years. She seemed perfectly content mingling with the other first-day-of-schoolers, many of which she recognized from preschool. I still remember thinking how quickly she was growing up.
The years flew by. Each new school piqued my anxiety. But my girl was a trooper. She was rarely nervous. I was the one silently panicking and praying she’d like her school, the teachers, the other kids. But she never liked school. She merely tolerated it and her disdain became more prevalent each year. Her NLD/slow processing speed had become increasingly challenging and school became a stressful environment. Freshman year she dated a popular senior and was cyber bullied by other girls. She was the most talked about girl on an anonymous social media app that allowed people to create and view discussion threads within a 5-mile radius. Names were not allowed but classmates used her initials and their version of her life became the topic of a public forum. We tried to remove it, but it was impossible; social media was too powerful.
Her father moved out-of-state and she decided to go with him hoping to escape the issues she’d had her freshman and sophomore years. She went from a small town school to a big city school. Needless to say, the high school drama only grew into a bigger rat race. The school wasn’t the problem. The kids weren’t even the problem. Lack of parental supervision of social media was. Social media is a catalyst to a downward spiral if not used properly. Not all kids abuse social media, but many get sucked into its abyss.
I suggest to parents who are sniffling as they scoot their Little Loves off to school, to embrace those early years and pay close attention. There are more consequential issues out there now than getting good grades, playing sports and hanging out with the right group of people. The once simple life has turned a dangerous corner and these kids have pressures we can’t even fathom. Today social media and drugs consume our kids. Peer pressure goes way beyond classmates; they get pressure from kids (and adults) everywhere. They base self-worth on the number of social media followers they have. It’s not just a few school boys pressuring them for sex after a pit party. They’re constantly being asked to take nude selfies and God knows what else. These kids aren’t giggling at VHS cartoon porn, they have access to it up close and personal with a simple Google search. “Parents, don’t be naive and refuse to see the signs they’ve learned to hide so well. Many kids are losing direct human contact and getting lost in a dangerous world of cyber space.” If I could rewind time I would’ve set more boundaries with the cell phone and tried to engage more. I wasn’t savvy enough to know all she knew about technology. And by the time I realized it, she’d become so attached that taking the phone away could easily turn into a UFC match. It became so out of control that neither of us (as parents) knew what to do. So we set some rules, turned a blind eye and trusted her to do the right thing. We taught her right from wrong. Surely she wouldn’t get into too much trouble. But she did. Social media and drugs became more influential than her own parents. I couldn’t sleep at night not knowing what my child was up to. I felt disconnected and she had complete control of our communication schedule. She was a teenage girl who knew it all and I was just a meddling mom. But I wasn’t going to lose my child to drugs, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to continue to allow social media to raise her. It was time for drastic measures.
She hasn’t had access to a cell phone or social media for over six months. She has a consistent routine and follows strict guidelines. There are no drugs, no sexually explicit degrading music, no selfies. Sound a little harsh? Perhaps. But we warned her if she couldn’t follow our rules, she would go to a place where she’d have no choice. And guess what? She’s doing AMAZING at her new, very regimented school. She’s riding horses, hiking, rock climbing, learning how to sketch, learning graphic design, working on a ranch, meditating, making her bed every morning and all kinds of things she wasn’t utilizing at home. So I won’t be posting pictures of her first day of school or running around searching for the perfect prom dress, and that aches more than words can express. But there are times in life when we have to make a painfully difficult choice between doing what everybody else is or doing what instinctively feels right. Always. Choose. Instincts. I may lose out on some important teenage milestones, but I refuse to lose my daughter. Again. It’s not that I want her to change herself, but to remove external distractions so she can focus on finding her self. She’s still attending school and taking typical classes while earning credits. But the focus is on self expansion. She’ll eventually reunite with the world of cyber space and drugs, but she will have the skills necessary to make better choices. And truth be told, I’ve never been prouder.