My parents did not raise me to take my shirt off at a bluegrass festival. They did not encourage me to skinny-dip whenever and wherever I could or to eighty-six my bra at the age of 14.
But I did all that, without their permission, because I was a teenager in the early to mid-1970s. I grew up smack dab between the sexual revolution and the feminist revolution.
None of this rebellion was accomplished because my parents were slackers. They were not. My mother hated my braless look and never knew that I went shirtless.
My parents waited up at night for all five of their kids until we were safely home. They knew our friends. They volunteered for our activities. Our presence at the dinner table was mandatory.
But preventing their children from experiencing the ’70s was like trying to prevent driftwood from drifting. The desire to blend with the mores of those times was irresistible, just as it is irresistible for teens and preteens now who want to blend with the trends of today.
With that off my chest, I’d like to offer the following:
• Parents should (in my opinion) do their very best to communicate the dangers of social media. Information is power. Setting limits on the amount of time kids spend online is smart. Throw out the TV while you’re at it.
• For as long as you can, hold off on giving them a phone or a computer or anything that will carry them out to the big waves. Ground them, lock them in your attic and do whatever works to protect them from harm.
• Make them do art.
• Do all this with passion, but understand …the times they are, always, a-changin’.
Just as my parents couldn’t have possibly kept up with the rapid changes of the social revolutions of the ’60s and ’70s, neither can the parents who are raising kids today during the technical revolution.
Social media, after all, is structured to encourage secrets: If you want to create a fake profile, no problem. If you want to invite only special friends to a private online group, no problem. If you want to increase or decrease your privacy settings, knock yourself out.
Computer geniuses spend hours creating new ways for us to hide our lives from the world while, simultaneously, they’re creating new ways to expose our lives to billions.
Personally, I am a member of three “private” Facebook groups. Only the members of those groups and the 10,000-plus employees of Facebook have access to what we post. We, as users of Facebook and the other online communication sites, pass at our own risk.
I can delete my Facebook page tomorrow. I might.
Supervising minors as they establish their online personas is difficult, and when harm comes to them because of social media, it’s only natural to want to blame someone.
But blaming Facebook or its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, when kids do risky things online is like blaming The Beatles for the stupid things we did in the ’60s and ’70s. And blaming hardworking, well-intentioned parents seems misguided.
All we really can do as parents and users of these omnipresent social media sources is to educate ourselves and our children about the risks.
In the spirit of non-blaming, I’d like to congratulate Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, on their exciting news: According to Mark’s personal Facebook page, they are expecting a girl sometime in the near future.
I wish you the best, Mark and Priscilla. Good luck raising a daughter during the revolution that will erupt in her times. If you have not selected a name, I’d like to suggest “Karma.” Karma Zuckerberg.
Orignally published for Port City Post, Portland Press Herald, 1/24/14