Although Anthony Weiner stated that the women he corresponded with on Facebook and Twitter were all over the age of consent, recently more compromising photos have emerged and information has come out about a ‘friend’/’follower’ who is in high school. Although he may not have sent her any lewd photos or messages, this highlights the dilemma for parents of teens – how much to monitor your kids’ online experience. On the one hand, you want to protect them from danger before it becomes inevitable, on the other, you want to allow them to develop their own autonomy.
With Facebook, twitter and other social media being such a large part of the connections in young people’s experience today, parents need to set standards for their teens about how to use these interactive technologies. In a blog post this spring, we talked about the risks stemming from teen’s sexting and what parents could do to help their kids protect themselves.
In that post, we pointed out the importance of being concrete with teens about the potential consequences of all risky behaviors – especially because of the slow development in their brain lobes responsible for functions such as good judgment. Sexting in particular can be an impulsive and dangerous activity and it may be impossible to completely erase a post from the Internet. Representative Weiner found this out when he attempted to delete his message after realizing that it was sent to everyone following him, not just the intended recipient.
Weiner has decided that, due to his inappropriate behavior, he requires a “course of treatment to make himself well.” It’s unclear what his treatment will address but for teens, with peer pressure being such a strong influence, parents can work toward helping their kids increase feelings of self-esteem and develop a respect for their own worth.
As a parent, the goal is to be present in your children’s lives without overwhelming them with your input – it’s a fine line. Just as you recognize their need for independence, you’re also aware of the value of supervision at this stage of their development. You’ll find more parenting tips for raising children in the digital age on the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
And lets hope that soon this poor example of role modeling by a public official moves off the front page so we can get back to talking with our teens about getting summer jobs rather than about lying and sexting.