Becoming a parent changes you.
Everyone told me that when I got pregnant, but it never really hit me full force until after my daughter was born. Sure, the long nights and extremely early mornings made me a bit irritable and much less attractive and no, changing poopy diapers doesn’t exactly compare to Saturday night clubbing, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
In fact, every decision I make now revolves around Annadelle. So much so that I find myself comparing myself to my mother more often than I can count. When I was young, I would have said that was a bad thing. Now? Not so much.
Today’s parenting seems to be so much more difficult than parenting of, say, the 80’s. I definitely don’t have any experience or anything to compare my current parenting to, but common sense tells me navigating through your child’s preteen and teenage years is probably rather difficult when their eyes are glued to a screen.
Luckily for my mom, she didn’t have to worry about that much. Yes, I spent a good bit of time on AOL as it launched, but a majority of my preteen and teenager years were spent with friends doing makeovers, singing bad karaoke to the radio into our hairbrushes and playing board games.
This is why I worry so much about Annadelle and future teenagers in general. I didn’t get in much trouble because there truly wasn’t much of an opportunity to do it then. The internet provides an unlimited amount of risk for our kids if we don’t teach them how to use it and be safe.
So, here are a few things I want my daughter to know before she knows the internet.
1. The internet is forever.
My favorite vinyl decal I’ve ever seen for running read, “Pain is temporary, but your finishing time posted on the internet is forever,” and boy is that the truth. Every single character you type is there permanently, no matter how much you try to delete it.
Even now I have an old photo account I can’t get rid of because I can’t remember the password OR email I used. Now all of those old selfies are there for the world to see. Luckily for me, they are amazing selfies.
2. Mean people will hide behind their screens.
There are two things in this world that will give you an unlimited amount of courage: alcohol and a computer screen. I could probably add cell phone to this list, too, but I’m sort of adding cell phones in with computer screens here.
Mean, cowardly people will hide behind their screens to insult you. They will say things to hurt you in a feeble attempt to raise their self esteem because at some point in their life someone else has likely done it to them. Always remember that at some point, they have likely been the victim of someone’s lack of love, so hurting you is an outlet for them. In no way is it a reflection of you.
3. Not everything on the internet is true.
As a rule of thumb, remember there is always more to the story. There’s his side, her side and then the truth. Learn to listen to all of the story and formulate your own opinion rather than spreading someone else’s opinion via the internet.
Remember this: Anyone, anywhere can put anything and everything on the internet…regardless of its accuracy.
4. Don’t compare yourself to the images you see.
Trust me when I say your eyes are being deceived with almost every click you make. The world of graphic design and web imagery is ever expanding, making strides more advanced today than ever before.
Here’s an awesome TED Talk video with Cameron Russel that helps explain my point:
5. Use the web wisely.
The amount of information available at your fingertips is unending. You have access to a plethora of information that, before now, was so far out of reach.
Don’t waste all of your time reading Buzzfeed articles about who you should hook up with on Game of Thrones. (Note: Notice I said “all of your time” not “some of your time”…because it’s okay to occassionally wonder if Jon Snow would make the perfect mate.) Instead, do some research on the latest Nobel prize winner, or learn about Anne Bradstreet, or discover more than anyone should possibly know about gardening.
Spend your time knowing things that matter.
6. Don’t reveal too much information…or skin.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scrolled through my Facebook news feed and seen a half naked teenager posting, “TBH?” Even as I was typing this, my lip curled up in disgust as I thought about this. Did I do this as a teen? God, I sure hope not. Surely my mother taught me better than that.
So to the future Annadelle, understand this: You don’t have to remove your clothes for people to like you. You don’t have to describe your sexual behavior to be loved. The truth is, the people who will ask and beg for that won’t like and/or love you- they will use you. Once that behavior stops, you won’t hear from them anymore. But you sure will be filled with a whole lot of regret.
I give you all of this advice because I have experienced it first hand. I don’t want you to look back on your life and say, “I wish I had listened to my mother,” as I have done too many times.
Can you think of anything else to add that I left out? Comment below!