I had my firstborn son pretty young, and although there’s an assumption that a young mum is a cool mum, that certainly wasn’t the case for me. Sure, I was a cool mum, but sadly I had to put aside a lot of that in order to parent my kid. Although we were close, I never had that urge to be my son’s friend. I was a parent, so having to do the boring unpleasant aspects of parenting such as providing discipline and teaching respect ended up being the priority more than I would have liked. Part of this was that I drew a hard line when it came to social media, and despite this causing a rift when he was younger, it was social media that actually brought us closer together in the later years.
When my son was in high school, many of his friends were getting mobile phones with access to data and the internet. This was something that I wasn’t comfortable with him having since he had displayed questionable judgement regarding the safety aspect of being online when he was younger. I monitored his internet use on the home computer and didn’t allow him to have data or social media accounts, which was a heavy point of contention in my house.
When he was 15 and we moved to a new town, I had seen some signs that he was gaining maturity when it came to the dangers of being in the online space. Now, I myself had a growing presence online from being a blogger and could see firsthand just how bizarre the world of social media could be. A few years earlier, I had started a blog and associated social channels and had settled into some comfort with Instagram, where I shared mainly jokes and memes about parenting and the messy realities of mum life. This was a part of my life I didn’t discuss with my son, partly because of the subject matter (I talk candidly about the struggle of having children and mental health issues) and partly because I felt that fun side of me was better left hidden as I struggled to navigate parenting a headstrong teen.
One day I had posted a particularly ridiculous meme and saw in my notifications that my teen had found my account. My entire online presence with jokes about parenting and ample cuss words was on display. Although this caused me some anxiety, it was a nice moment to have as we sort of connected on a bit of a different level. I’m sure I became a little more human to him that day. All of a sudden we had something new to talk about. We started sending each other memes and jokes and talked about the different trends that were happening online.
Cut to about a year later and the rise of TikTok. My son has a TikTok and it seems that this is his favourite platform. I was looking to start one, but found the whole thing very confusing, and ended up talking to my son about it. One night in the supermarket parking lot, he ended up walking me through the different features and buttons, while we laughed and looked through his and other people’s TikTok videos.
As a mother of a teen, it can be hard sometimes to find common ground. Talking to them can be a challenge, and you often feel like you’re walking on eggshells because you want to be there for them, without scaring them off. After the turmoil we went through when he was younger because I enforced such strict rules about the internet, I never thought it would be social media that brought us together, but it ended up being a really interesting thing we could share.