I remember when I was a Junior High-aged teenager, growing up in a small town. It was hard to work up the courage to ask a girl for her parents’ phone number, then worry about calling the number, hoping her Dad didn’t answer. I worried about calling too late or staying on the phone too long. There was always the concern that someone was listening in on our conversations as well.
Here I am, some 30 years later, and I have a Junior High-aged daughter of my own. So much has changed. Every kid has a mobile device and most teenagers have multiple social media apps to communicate with friends, family or strangers. These kids can call, text or even FaceTime, at any moment.
I don’t want my children to feel like I’m smothering them, yet at the same time, I want to know what is going on. I want my kids to make their own friends and be able to use their own judgment when certain situations arise. I have basically told my daughter she can have a passcode on her phone as long as I know it, and she knows I may check it from time to time. I have read some messages between her and other girls, and wonder how they could be friends. I’ve also read a message sent to her from boys, and decided, “He will not be her friend!”
My kids are constantly wanting to spend the night with friends. I think it is good for them to get out and experience for themselves, the way others live. Sometimes they come home and really appreciate how good they have it, and other times they come home wanting a pony, or a game room.
We have set up special emoji codes in case they are at a friend’s home and are uncomfortable, or just don’t want to be there any longer. My daughter is not a fan of clowns, so if she is someplace and wants me to come get her, all she has to do is text me the clown emoji. This has already been implemented once. Last summer she had a friend stay at our home. Everything went well, and they seemed to get along great. A few weeks later she wanted to go stay with the same girl at her home. I got the address and warned that the area of homes was not great. I dropped her off around 7 p.m., and around midnight, I received the “clown” text. I called the parent of my daughter’s friend and told them we had an emergency, so I needed to come get her.
My daughter was unable to sleep because as she said, “Everything was dirty and it smelled bad.” We have had the same girl over to our house multiple times, and they continue to be good friends.
As kids get older and begin meeting new people and making new friends, it’s best to keep an open line of communication with them. Talk to them about situations that may occur, and give them ideas of ways to handle them.
I also share news stories with my teenagers, where kids were manipulated by adults posing as children of their own age. They have to know not everyone online or on social media is a friend, or are who they say they are.