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Parenting When the Lid’s Come Off

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Dr. Meg Meeker

“How are you supposed to parent well when the lid’s come off?” my friend, recently asked me.

Every parent knows exactly what he means. Bad stuff is oozing from everywhere onto our kids and we can’t seem to contain it anymore. Here’s a case in point.

Internet socializing scares the pants off of most parents of teens—particularly teen girls. And a new study just released in the journal Pediatrics shows us why we should be afraid.

After following 250 girls ages 14-17 for 18 months, the study found that 30% of the girls met offline with someone whom they met online. While this might sound harmless to the casual reader, think about the fact that any one of these encounters could kill a girl.

The study also found that girls who had experienced mistreatment (sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect) were at higher risk for meeting up with folks off line. Interestingly, girls who had parents who were involved with their girls and doing a decent job of parenting were protected far more than the girls who didn’t have parents involved. The researchers concluded that “high quality parenting and parental monitoring moderated the associations between adolescent risk factors and internet behaviors, whereas use of parental control software didn’t.” This is fascinating.

As much as we hear about what types of gadgetry we parents should put on our computers to safeguard our kids, this study found that it wasn’t internet controls that kept kids safe; it was parents! Who would have thought?

Here again I will beat my drum. We conscientious parents who try everything under the sun to do our best to keep our kids away from harm need to remember one simple but very important truth: we hold all the power in our kids’ lives.

Yes, there is a lot of bad stuff out there waiting to take them down, but we know that what really keeps kids out of harm’s way is having a good relationship with us. Our rules. Our love. Our communication and our insistence to them that, because we have their back, we will parent with a firm hand and open heart.

There is so much to frighten us when it comes to all the bad stuff our kids encounter. But we must remember that we need to parent from strength, not fear. So when it comes to things like internet socializing, roll up your sleeves and do what you do best.

Talk to your kids. Tell them why socializing on the Internet can lead to really bad things. Be bold. Spend more time with them, and let them know what you hope and dream for them. I guarantee you’ll find success.

Sound OK?

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