Yesterday a friend of mine posted the following question on Facebook:
Just out of curiosity, how many parents would want to know if there was a picture on social media of their underage son or daughter with friends and beers in their hands?
This question reminded me of a post I wrote a couple years ago, which addressed the topic of wanting to be told if my kids were doing something questionable.
When I was in high school, there were no cell phones. There was no Facebook or Snapchat or even any internet.
Up until the first half of my sophomore year in high school, I was what most parents would have described as the perfect kid.
I was an athlete, I was a good student, I was responsible, helpful, motivated, positive, and an all around good kid.
I liked to stay home on the weekends and I knew I would never be like my friends who had already started drinking and smoking.
Because that was just stupid and not fun.
Then my eighteen-month-old brother was diagnosed with leukemia, and (although I didn’t realize it at the time) I started looking for ways to numb the pain of watching my brother slowly and gradually die.
I took a drink for the first time at a party when I was fifteen.
I went from a kid who was seriously anti-drinking to swigging Jack Daniels straight from the bottle.
I am sure my parents never would have dreamed their straight shooting, responsible, athletic daughter would be chugging whiskey at fifteen years old.
But I did.
Eventually I tried smoking.
I didn’t like it at first.
Eventually I grew to LOVE it.
My mom would find cigarettes in my jacket.
I told her they were a friend’s.
She didn’t believe me.
I think she wanted to to. She may have given me the benefit of the doubt.
But she knew.
Later on in high school I went to a party where I drank a few wine coolers. It was during softball season, and I, along with all the other girls on the team, had signed a contract that we would not drink alcohol during the season.
I’m not sure why we were asked to do that when the drinking age was 21 and nobody in high school was supposed to be drinking, whether they were on a sports team or not.
Anyway, somebody saw me drinking, and I, along with a few other girls on the team, were suspended.
And I flat out lied to my mom.
I told her I was holding the wine cooler for a friend, but I didn’t drink it. Not one sip.
I was adamant about that.
I was so adamant about it that my mom went into the principal’s office and demanded that my one or two week suspension be lifted.
I felt terrible about that for many years to follow.
Had social media been a thing at the time, I am pretty certain I would have gotten myself into trouble.
Because even “good” kids do stupid things.
And even good kids lie.
And you don’t need to have a brother who is dying to do stupid things.
Most teenagers do stupid sh*t on more than one occasion.
And you know what else?
Kids who don’t drink don’t hold drinks for their friends.
Kids who don’t smoke don’t keep packs of cigarettes in their jackets for their friends.
So let’s nip that one in the bud.
If there is a picture of your kid on Instagram or Snapchat or wherever, and they are holding a beer or a cigarette or a bong or anything else that is illegal, they are not holding it for a friend.
I know we’d love for that to be the case, but it’s not.
And if there is a picture of my kid doing something stupid or careless or illegal on social media, I WANT TO KNOW.
Even if you are 1,000,000% sure I am already aware, I want you to tell me.
Our five youngest are still a few years away from this. But the days of them having access to social media and independence will be upon my before I know it.
So if you see my kids holding beers or smoking cigarettes, I want to know.
If you see my daughter making obscene gestures on Instagram, I want to know.
If you see my son disrespecting women on Snapchat, I want to know.
If you seen anything that sets off your internal mom alarm, I WANT TO KNOW.
And I know we all say this.
I know we say, YES! I WANT TO KNOW! and then when we are told, some of us become defensive. We may be in denial. We may make excuses. We may come back at you.
We may never talk to you again.
But I have read too many articles about kids who have ruined their future because the posted something stupid on Facebook.
Articles about kids who have run away with people they don’t really know or who have overdosed on drugs.
Articles about kids who were really good kids who are no longer with us.
Articles about parents who have lost their children who had no idea their kids were doing anything like that at all.
And I am not willing to have that hanging over my head.
Plus, no matter what my reaction is, I REALLY WANT TO KNOW.
CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO DIE.
But your delivery does make a difference.
Posting something on my Facebook wall is not the way to go about it.
Randomly blurting it out in a text?
Probably not the best way to address things either.
Telling me in the middle of a group of my friends at a mom’s night out?
Ummmm… No thank you.
So how do you approach this?
I can say for me, I’d like a text or a message or an email to let me know there is an issue.
Something along the lines of this:
There is something I need to talk to you about. It’s important, and I know if it were me, I would want someone to let me know. When would be a good time to talk?
That opens up the door for me to tell you it’s okay to text me with this info and that you don’t need to tell me in person or over the phone.
In the case that you present me with this information and I forget everything I have just written?
Well, then you can just give me the link to this blog post as a reminder.
Because if my underage kid is posting pictures on social media drinking a beer or just “holding someone else’s” or doing anything else that would get him or her into any sort of trouble, tarnish their reputation or potentially affect their future…
I would want to know.