Three years ago, right before my daughter turned 13, she launched a campaign to be allowed to have a Facebook account. All of her friends already had one, she informed us. We were, like, the only parents in the world who actually paid attention to the legal age for opening a Facebook account.
Aside from being dramatic hyperbole, that’s simply not true. (see also: What to Do When Your Pre-Teen Wants a Facebook Account) After taking it under advisement, we said, “Sure. You can have a Facebook account when you turn 13, but there will be rules and restrictions that come with it.”
A year after the Facebook treatise, she petitioned to have the parental controls governing the hours she could use her cell phone lifted, so we negotiated. Then she wanted a web cam. “Sure,” we told her again. “But you’ll have to use it on the family computer in the dining room.”
In our house, electronics aren’t considered a right or a teenage rite of passage; use is monitored and restricted. This is an ongoing source of woe for our teenager. But it’s the right thing to do.
Having defined rules around the use of the Internet and having our family computer in a visible place in the house is, for us, a matter of common sense. Circle of Moms member Jazi A. agrees; in her house the computer is in the living room.
These restrictions are born of safety concerns, not distrust. My husband and I know that people on the Internet aren’t always who they seem to be and that a teenager isn’t saavy enough to understand the threat that other people pose.
As the years pass, our teenager finds our rules increasingly ridiculous, but they’re actually pretty reasonable and similar to what many other moms on the Circle of Moms Communities do with their children. In terms of Facebook the rules are:
- We need to know her password. She needed to accept our friend requests and keep us as friends.
- I monitor her privacy settings on Facebook and update them as new pollicies are rolled out.
- She cannot “friend” adults without our permission.
- At the first sign of any type of cyber-bullying, we’d shut down her account.
Recently we’ve started enforcing a time limit for her online access, too. Our router is now programmed to allow her laptop and iPod Touch online only during certain blocks of time during the day.
We realized that we should set limits for her brothers as well, though they need to be appropriate to their ages and situations. So now, screentime for our middle child, who has Asperger Syndrome, is directly tied into an “earned time” program, and our toddler watches a few mom-approved programs on PBS.
Our boys have numerous other interests, but between Facebook, text messaging and email, our teen daughter was developing a richer existence online than off. This was concerning to us. We don’t want to force her to participate in activities she doesn’t enjoy, but we don’t want to give her a reason not to even join them. And the Internet was becoming a reason.
It’s pretty likely that none of our kids see the benefits of the rules and restrictions governing their use of electronics and the Internet. They don’t have to. I know the protection I am providing them, and that helps me sleep at night. Well, that, and knowing the Internet is inaccessible while I sleep.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.