I have recently been drawn into a conversation about teenagers, sexuality, and online activities on a massive e-mail group. The conversation was started by a father posting a link to this Daily Mail article about the excessive promiscuity and online sexual activity teenagers are regularly engaging in. I was unimpressed by the article – and I’m being overly kind with that euphemism – and distressed by the recommendations this father gave for parents to attempt to “out-technology” their teenagers’ online behavior and restrict it through a variety of means.
In response, I linked to this recent NYTimes article called The Myth of Rampant Teenage Promiscuity and the Harvard-run Internet Safety Technical Task Force. Both have fabulous information, and I highly recommend you read through them.
But today’s post isn’t about either of these articles or the ISTTF report. Rather, I want you to read what a young woman wrote about her own experience as a teenager. She gave me permission to re-print her words here:
I rarely put my two cents in for these things but as someone who just left the adolescent years (I’m now 23) I would like to speak from the other side of things a bit. I never had much interest in misbehaving or looking up inappropriate material on the Internet until I was told not to as a teenager. It’s a very stubborn phase about learning to make your own decisions and assert your independence meaning do everything your parents don’t want you to. One of the worst things I remember was being treated like I was going to do something wrong so I should be preemptively punished or lectured. Parents just want to protect their children and keep them from making the same mistakes they did but it’s important to remember that children and adolescents have their own opinions and values even if they won’t talk about them with you, (I often pretended to have different ideas of right and wrong from my mother out of pride). I remember the best deterrent against bad behavior was when adults treated me like an equal, included me in their conversations and debates, gave me responsibilities and allowed me to make decisions for myself. It’s sort of like training a new employee, you teach them the basics and let them get a feel for how things are done while casually watching from the corner just in case. I didn’t want to disappoint people who respected me so I tried harder to behave. Structure and family time is important, in hind sight I may have whined and rolled me eyes about spending ‘quality’ time with the fam, but I don’t regret any of it. Now all ‘kids’ are different and that might not work for some but that’s my two cents on the matter.