If you aren't monitoring your tweens' online communications, you should be. I'm not an alarmist, not by an means, but I got lax.
In the beginning, when my daughter first got a phone, I was vigilant about checking texts on my middle schooler's phone and Instagram posts on her iPod, but I fell off the wagon. After a several month recess, I am BACK, hovering over her online communications once again.
Our new rules include no erasing texts, and all electronics go off at 8 p.m. The phone and iPod are placed on my dresser for the night. I do not snoop. I make it clear to my daughter that I will be looking at her texts and posts.
Do I trust my daughter? Unequivocally, yes. Do I trust her to always make good word choices and proper choices about what photos are appropriate to post? No. At 12, it is impossible for a child to understand the possible long-term ramifications of their online communications. It is up to us as parents to guide them in the right direction and point out when they make mistakes.
And it's not just my own daughter's posts and texts that I am looking at. I also look at those made by her friends. I have learned a great deal about the people she associates with from what they say online.
My general rule is that I do not intervene unless the communication is dangerous (physically or emotionally), damages her reputation or hurts another person. It is hard not to intervene when something simply strikes me the wrong way, but I'm learning to pick my battles and focus only on what is most important. As a parent, holding back is probably the hardest thing we ever have to do.
Some disturbing trends I am seeing overall: Kids using acronyms for expressions which include curse words, kids posting photos with provocative titles, and lots of rants about everything from parents to homework. Most of it is harmless, testing the waters, trying to figure out where the limits are, trying to be cool. But my concern is that with their ability to have a secret online life, tweens are setting themselves up for disaster without proper oversight from their parents.
In the 70s when I grew up (yes I'm that old), it was much harder to hide things from our parents. If they were concerned about us, they went through our drawers, read our diaries and even listened in on our phone conversations. And they didn't apologize for invading our privacy. They did it because they loved us and wanted to keep us safe-the same reason we do it today.
Call me a hover-parent. I'll take it. I'd rather hover now than regret not doing it later. While their methods of communication have changed, kids today really aren't that different than we were. And that's what really scares me...
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.