Friday, Friday

February 17, 2012

Friday has finally arrived.  Four day weeks are always the longest for some reason.  Valentine's Day immediately following a snow day makes for some very wound up kids.  Note to self:  Schedule a doctor's appointment for 2/14/13.

I posted on Facebook and Twitter last night that there are LOTS of kids who still do the right things consistently.  My heart has been heavy this week as I've heard about mistakes some students are making.  It's not comfortable to discuss some of what I've had to talk about with my own ninth and sixth graders this week.  It's very difficult to teach your children to extend grace toward someone who is hurting from a bad choice they made, but then have to seemingly contradict yourself as you try to explain that some mistakes can't be overlooked as if nothing happened -- that there are times to distance yourself from others and not count them among your closest friends. 

Parenting, as I've said before, may be the death of me.  Growing up in this digital age is tough; raising kids in the digital age is tougher.  Anything one posts or shares online through social media or through texting is out there forever in the cloud.  Tick someone off?  They can exact a very effective revenge using phones and Facebook and Twitter. 

The number of parents who are not involved in their children's online activities is astonishing.  We utilize parental controls on the phone as necessary.  I log-in to Facebook accounts and read private messages.  I follow my oldest on Twitter.   I monitor the comment activity on both my children's pages and those on which I see them commenting. 

Parker was in fourth grade when we had our first big talk about not texting or emailing or commenting anything that you would not say to a person face to face.  My girls seem to get this.  I don't announce when I'll be checking their messages, but, when phones are left out and Facebook is left logged into, I read.  Last year PJB had some trouble with one particular girl all. year. long.  I came across some messages sent back and forth between them and found that my girl was responding to ugly language and ugly comments just like I would want her to. 

All this is not to say my girls won't screw up.  They have; they will.  It is my earnest prayer, my most fervent prayer, that the mistakes they make will not be the kind that follow them around for the rest of their lives.  Wreck the car (fender-bender, please).  Miss curfew (because you were doing something really fun and wonderful with your friends that is not illegal or dangerous).  Have a low grade (but work hard to bring it up before report cards).  Watch others and learn from their mistakes. 

My mom always lived out a very wise mantra -- "Never say your children wouldn't do something."  Years of teaching in public school and hearing all the talk that ran through the teachers' lounge taught her this.  This little saying probably kept her from looking the fool many times because chances are if it could be done, I probably did it.  The world looks much different in 2012 than it did in 1992.  The things that can be done -- easily and often -- by teenagers is crazy. 

If I were to offer some tips to parents who are just entering this phase of their teens' life or who think they need to do some things differently, I would give them the following advice.  This advice comes not so much from my own mad mothering skillz (with the "Z" -- gives me street cred), but from years of watching middle school and high school students interact with each other.

1.  Utilize the parental control option on cell phones.  Your provider may charge you $5 a month, but it is $5 well spent.  Limit their texting and data ability during the school day.  You can generally choose up to 10 numbers that can be accessed any time.  We set mine, my husband's, and my mother's numbers as unrestricted lines that can always be reached. 

2.  Set a nighttime restriction on phone usage either by parental controls or having your child turn their phone in to you at bedtime.  It is not at all uncommon for me to have a student in class who cannot stay awake because they were on their phone all night.

3.  Require your kids to have you as a friend on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.  Be social media savvy enough to recognize if they've blocked you. 

4.  Be friends with their friends on Facebook.  A lot of teachers shy away from allowing students to friend them, but because my students are also friends of my daughter's, I won't ever stop doing this.  You don't have to (and really shouldn't) interact with them, but you do need to observe them if they are involved with your kids. 

5.  Look through their pictures and videos on their phones on a regular basis.  You can also restrict their ability to send pictures via text through parental controls.   We have not ever done this, but if I found anything inappropriate we would.  (After the phone was returned to them much, much later.)

This seems like a lot and it is.  I think the middle school/junior high years are the most intense and those are the teaching years.  The good news is, kids grow up and they earn our trust and we get to back off a little.

I can't post without a picture!  Last Friday we had a laugh after school when realized my big girls were dressed alike.  Molly and I leave the house before PJB in the mornings, so we missed this.

Molly didn't mind so much, but Parker was really glad we didn't stop anywhere on our way home. 

Hope your weekend is wonderful!

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