Archive for Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Teen frustrated that parents restrict access to social-networking sites

January 13, 2009


Dear Wes & Kelly: I’m 15, and my parents still restrict me from using the Internet without filters. I might be OK with that if they were filtering out porn or something bad, but they don’t let me access Facebook, MySpace or anything else that everybody uses. Don’t you think this is pretty extreme? It’s making it so I don’t even want anything to do with them anymore. Maybe they’ll listen to you.

Wes: Ah, the Internet — modern purveyor of everything good and evil. I can’t recall another medium in the history of mankind that places in parallel so much good next to so much bad. In the old days, you had to go to the bad neighborhood or dial the bad telephone number to see or hear bad things. You had to put forth effort to travel into the big, bad city to involve yourself in big, bad happenings. You had to know bad people with bad ideas to be really, really bad. With the Internet, one has to exert about .5 calories worth of energy to click from reruns of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” to pretty much anything you can imagine and a great deal you could not.

It sounds like your parents are quite aware of this and have decided to increase the level of effort it takes to go to the bad neighborhoods of the Internet, which is about the best they can hope for. The problem for you is that their view of what’s negative on the Internet exceeds yours and includes social networking sites. What you didn’t tell us is exactly what they are concerned about. I can think of a whole list of reasons: cyberbullying, posting of inappropriate content, general unethical behavior online, addiction to massive multiplayer games. But I don’t really know what they are concerned about, and perhaps you don’t either. My favorite one right now is the fact that the Internet has a MEMORY like a metaphorical elephant. You may decide after a few weeks that those cool pictures of you and your buds acting up in your boxers aren’t as great an idea as you thought. So you take those pages down. Too late. The images still live out there, on servers, on other people’s hard drives. You’re caught in that one moment in time … forever. Just try out the Wayback Machine some time to see how everything is archived online. In fact, clever employers are now searching the blogs and Web pages of prospective employees to get to know them better than they might like. Not quite what you were expecting when you signed up.

If your parents are concerned that you’re not going to be responsible with your online life, I think you should sit down and propose some rules that you think will manage their anxiety. The whole issue of how much privacy is too much privacy is pushed to the forefront when parents want your passwords. You really have to try to walk a mile or two in their shoes and understand what they are afraid of before proceeding. That doesn’t mean all their fears are justified in your case. It just means that in order to resolve a problem or disagreement with someone, you have to first understand them, and then work to meet them where they’re at.

Kelly: Parents, whether you like it or not, your kids are constantly keeping up with the latest fads. Whether it’s the latest version of the iPod, the newest cellular device or the fastest-growing social network, kids will become caught up in keeping up with the big trends. It’s only natural that you want to provide the best for your children. But some things may be enabling your child to live for the latest craze rather than showing and teaching them responsibility.

Many teenagers tend to overlook the fact that Facebook is highly overrated. Yes it may be an easy, effective way to keep in touch with your friends, but too many kids have become obsessed with the popular social-networking site. Too often I see my peers rushing to the next available computer to either check or update their Facebook or MySpace. It’s become such a habit that even the school district has blocked these sites from their computers.

I fear that kids have begun to use social-networking sites as a substitute for face-to face communication. Words are open to interpretation, and their meaning may be misleading if only read through a computer. In contrast, when someone is communicating face-to-face, not only do you get their words but you get their body language and facial expression in order to convey both content and emotion.

On the other hand, yes, there are many dangers lurking on the Web, and those same dangers may carry on into the real world. As much as your parents would like to shelter you from all the pitfalls of society, you will still face them one day.

I know at 15 it seems to be unfair. But not being allowed a Facebook or MySpace account isn’t going to make much of a difference in your life. With or without an online account, you will still live a typical teenage life. Your parents are just trying to do what they feel is best for you.

— Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Kelly Kelin is a senior at Free State High School. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues (limited to 200 words) to All correspondence is strictly confidential.


angel4dennis 9 years, 5 months ago

"Its making it so I don't want anything to do with them anymore." Are you kidding me? You are a 15 year old brat. How dare you make such a comment when there are so many children in this world that are homeless and orphans. Your parents set guidelines for a reason. I did not allow my daughter to have even an email account (which I monitor) until she was 15. Other children would love to have this problem and would respect that their parents love them and want to protect them. Too harsh? Absolutely not, I would pull the plug on the entire internet if I were them. Perhaps if there were more parents that monitored their childrens internet usages, there would be less abductions, child porn, and child/adult rendevious. Grow up and be thankful for what you have.

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 5 months ago

I can not see why an e-mail account is such a big deal. I would not have a problem with a six year old writing to friends. I really think people are over thinking this. Why don't we make up a comprehensive list of everything that might happen to a child, (lets say six to nineteen) in the course of a day and then monitor each and every item. Continuously.I say let the boy have his Facebook or Myspace. Lighten up. Do you want to raise a loner who is going to end up shooting up the dorm?It doesn't say boy, but it does mention boxers, so I am assuming.

sk_in_ks 9 years, 5 months ago

A friend who is a parent of a teen solved the myspace conundrum this way: the teen was allowed to create and use an account, and the mom created her own account (with a pseudonym), which the teen then "friended" so the mom could monitor without being too intrusive. They also went over the privacy settings together and set them up so that the kid's info was more private than with the default settings.This has for them for several years now, and the act of setting it all up increased their mutual respect and communication.

jj024 9 years, 5 months ago

WAHHHHHAAAA. How about some more cheese with that? Poor teens don't get what they want? What type of world do we live in where a teen can't do whatever they please.

statesman 9 years, 5 months ago

I can understand how the kid doesn't want anything to do with his parents anymore. Once parents lose communication with their kids, it may be impossible to ever get a relationship back on course. Parents appear to be overprotective these days, not realizing that their kids are going to find some way to get around their parent's limitations. I know I did when I was 15. My parents were overly strict with us kids, not even allowing us to socialize with friends. We were never allowed to be home alone until we were college age. What they were afraid of, I don't know, as every other kid that I knew survived childhood OK. Yes, even 50 years after the fact, I still harbor a lot of resentment towards my parents, and I hope the parents of the boy who wrote asking for advice think twice about their actions.

trinity 9 years, 5 months ago

md, i tell you what-i've got a grown adult daughter that i honestly do not think realizes how her myspace page appears. to me, as mom-ick. in fact i dumped my old myspace page because i couldn't bear looking at hers; i've since fixed me a new one, but i don't look on it very often at all. your line about how it has affected how you think&relate to her-right on sister, me too. :-/

trinity 9 years, 5 months ago

oops and forgot to mention-it's sort of like having to look at myself, back when i was young. and here i thought i'd already dealt with that, lol! :)

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 5 months ago

I say shut up and get off your teens back.There seems to be a tendency to only think those of your age group, gender, race, etc. as really human and should be treated as such.A baby in the womb is not human, a child isn't, a teen isn't, so is humanhood something the state confers on you when you become of legal age?

mom_of_three 9 years, 5 months ago

a little harsh, aren't we, angel?This teenager was writing to ask for advice from professionals, not from you. I know how teenagers can be. maybe the parents are stricter than we think. Or maybe he is just a kid who thinks he deserves more. what teenager has held their own pity party at one time?Two of my teenagers have those pages, and check them about every day. I was relunctant to let them, especially the youngest, but at 14, the kid made a compelling argument. So the deal I made is that whenever they are on there, I have the right to look at it, at anytime. (our family computer is in the living room). Most of the time, they tell me what their friends wrote, or who they are typing to anyway, and they don't allow anyone to be a "friend" that they don't know. And you aren't going to write or say something totally stupid or inappropriate if your parents might see it. At least mine don't. They know the consequence is to lose the page, among other punishment. As far as communication goes, my teenagers use it to communicate to cousins out of state and to friends that go to different schools that they may not see on a weekly basis.

kmat 9 years, 5 months ago

What so many don't realize is that employers check myspace to see what kind of person potential employees are. We've had some good laughs looking up accounts. You'd think someone wouldn't want drunk, half naked pics on their myspace page when trying to get a professional job.The headline cracked me up - Teen Frustrated. Really, a teenager frustrated??!!

Confrontation 9 years, 5 months ago

Waaaah! Send this brat to discover how tough life can be, and then maybe he'll appreciate something.

make_a_difference 9 years, 5 months ago

We have never had a nintendo in our house. It was a parental choice, for specific reasons, made eons ago. My kids grew up feeling at times that they were deprived because of this. When my oldest was in her freshman year of college, she called me one evening..."Just wanted to thank you for not allowing a nintendo in the house all those years" she said. "You would not believe how many people here don't know how to occupy themselves any other way." "What a waste." "Just thought I'd call & share." "Love you." "Bye". And she hung up. I was to get other calls similiar to this through out her years in college...sometimes her just needing someone to vent to. I discovered that she had been listening & absorbing all those years as a child. I'm in her head much the way my parents are in mine. And recently I discovered that (as a mid20s adult) she's begun to be in mine. The first moment of that realization was kinda thrilling for me. I don't know...maybe a circle of life kind of thing. (I really do love this parenting gig!)Anyway...Let me say that I believe that as soon as a child is born, they begin growing away from us...that's as it should be. Our job as parents is to do what is needed to help this individual grow into a (hopefully) happy, well-adjusted, productive & independant person. To parent well, one needs to regularly update accordingly to the individual child's needs, growth & maturity. This is one of the hardest jobs/obligations to exist. I've always made it clear to my kids that I hold them responsible for their behavior and that they personally will have to deal with the consequences of their choices. I will always be here to guide and support in an appropriate way, but will not rescue them. A phrase they have grown up hearing regularly is "your choice, your consequences". But at the same time, I've never hesitated to set boundries that were (I felt) appropriate...willing to listen to objections, if approached with respect, leading to discussion. Not always resulting in what my child wanted, but on occassion adjustments would be made if they made a good point. BUT, as the parent, I set the boundries and do not require that the child be happy with them. I'm willing to explain why I have chosen what I have...once again if approached with respect. I'm big on people treating others with respect. I expect the same respect from my kids that I give them. And I make sure that I treat them with respect. On the occasions when I do lose patience, I make a point of going to them and apoligizing for my slip. But once again I do not require that they agree with me regarding parent-set boundries...just that they follow them. Or deal with the consequences...and there are always consequences which have been made clear in advance.

Fran 9 years, 5 months ago

You can't block out what the kids want to do. If you block facebook or myspace at home, then they'll just do it at a friends house, or find some other way around it.I trust my kids and we talk about what constitutes safe usage. They appear to "get it" just fine. I keep the computers in the house in public spots (ie, den) and I keep them off at reasonable hours using ComputerTime.This is the formula that works for my family. YMMV.

angel4dennis 9 years, 5 months ago

I don't find my comment too harsh at all. I am studying to be a JJA officer myself and had a daughter in state's custody for 2 years. I have seen the system and lived the parental side of it. There are so many whiners who think that adults owe them everything they want. We do not have game systems in our house either. That is also our choice because I would prefer my child focus on learning and reading, than playing those violent games that most tend to do now days. I am not stiffling my child's independence or education and I get really upset at children that don't realize what they have. They make absurd comments and throw temper tantrums. I couldn't help my step daughter before she went into custody, that happened before I met her BUT the aftercare and everything she is now is beautiful. Am I a strict parent? Yes, and I monitor everything not because I don't trust them, I don't trust those around them. WE have a family meeting every week and I talk to my children every night to keep up with everything. I have raised them this way for 4 years now and everyone of them has grown morally, spiritually, and into a beautiful human being. Did I stunt their growth by not allowing the internet or a myspace page? Absolutely not.

Prana 9 years, 5 months ago

I am amazed at how many adults are wasting time on Facebook as registered users. My 40ish friends are on it 2-3 hours each night and I know exactly what they are doing at any given moment..."eating dinner", "getting ready to throw a load of laundry in!", "watching the Golden Globes" and on and on... I mean really...who cares? It is almost like who has the most friends and the most comments on your wall wins! I got an account so I could monitor what my 3 kids are doing and I am ready to delete my account. It is so annoying and a waste of time for adults! If I don't accept a 'friend' request, I'm afraid they will be upset so I accept all these 'friends' then have all this junk on my Facebook. My fault, I know. Anyway, to all adults on Facebook...grow up and find something more worthwhile to do with your time. It is not a second chance for Homecoming Queen II or Most Likely to Have the Most Facebook Friends...

bearded_gnome 9 years, 5 months ago

Kelly,I was quite impressed with the quality of your response to this angry teen. you showed a surprising level of circumspection, very nice. but I say, Taze the teen first for a bad mouth ... okay okay, am just kidding! the point made above that people with facebook or gamebots aren't learning how to occupy their time in useful ways is right on there. the teen in this column is expressing more than the words say: he or she doesn't trust parents' judgment; resents their restrictions. I hope the teen learns to trust, and to realize his/her 15-year-old perspective might just be a little limited.

JollyBee 9 years, 5 months ago

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