When I was growing up, “social media” meant bringing a Sweet Valley High book to a friend’s sleepover party. My 10-speed bike was my most valued worldly possession, and I vividly remember begging my parents for a phone in my own room, so I wouldn’t have to talk to my friends while standing in the kitchen.
A lot has changed in 30 years.
Now, my 12-year-old son has his own phone, and here’s the thing: While the ability to be in constant contact with my child is phenomenal, there is much more work involved on my end to make sure the new technology isn’t detrimental to his young life.
So I read his phone. All. The. Time. That was one of the conditions we laid out before giving him the thing, that I will have access to anything and everything he does with the phone because the phone is not his property, it is mine. And while this was a child who used to ramble on and on about everything and anything, he’s definitely become less forthcoming in the last year, and I need to know what he’s up to.
Recently, I was going through his Snapchat account and started reading his PMs from friends. I noticed a discrepancy in a conversation he was having with a girl he knows from school. The chat was innocent enough, but during the discussion, I realised the girl’s phrasing changed. The messages from this “girl” no longer seemed like they were being written by a child. My son was clearly chatting with an adult using his friend’s account.
I asked my kid about this, and he explained that this was indeed his friend’s mother who shares a Snapchat account with her daughter. I tried to tamper down my rage at the inappropriate situation so not to upset my son, but I did explain to him, in no uncertain terms, how improper this was. There really is no reason that a grown woman, whom I do not know, should be sending Snapchat messages to my child. Full stop.
The only thing left to do was to call this woman and notify her that not only did I know she was communicating with my son, but I was unsettled by that fact, and I found the situation to be unsuitable. So I did.
While the mother in question never said anything inappropriate to my boy, the fact that she even thought this was an acceptable behaviour is appalling. Calling her out on her behaviour was uncomfortable for both of us, and she eventually apologised. However, my son no longer has Snapchat or the password to the app store. I don’t see either of those things changing for a while.