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Real Talk: Are Your Kids Acting a Fool Online?

Are you having difficulty raising your kids in the digital age?
I’ve said for years that there’s no amount I could be paid to be a teenager again (or, really, any age under 30). I say that for all the obvious reasons: I don’t have to be (as) accountable to my parents, I can be independent, and I’m emotionally stable, with hormones I know how to control. But I’m also grateful because there’s no way that, as a teenager, I could deal with the looming vices of social media and rampant technology.

Full confession: I did A LOT of dumb stuff as a teenager, probably just like you, and much like many teenagers right now. But even if you know about that bad behavior, you’ll never be able to prove it. Can teens now say that?

Not so much. The feverish way many teens share their thoughts (even the “dirty laundry”), pictures and videos drives their parents nuts, and makes the task of raising kids that age even harder than it already is. This has been evidenced most recently in a viral video about a dad who shot (yes, with a .45) his daughter’s laptop for her misbehavior on Facebook, and the hubbub over young girls who tweeted some variation of “Chris Brown can beat me” after his Grammy performance earlier this week. And those stories come after last year’s video of a Black father beating his daughter’s cell phone with a baseball bat after he caught her sexting, and another popular video of an uncle wailing on a teenage boy after he discovered the child was fake-thugging on Facebook.

Lord knows I understand the parents’ reactions, even if extreme. It’s frustrating to bend over backwards to teach your kid some brought-upsie, then watch them act a fool in public like you haven’t been on your job. (Because you know the first question people ask when they see a teen acting a fool: “Where were his/her parents?”) But I wonder if the anger and focus are in the right place.

Kids — teens especially — have always used poor judgment. That’s nothing new, and it’s the nature of that age. Their parents have always found out about a good chunk of less-than-stellar moments, because, well, the poor judgment extends to their ability to hide their dirty work. Bad behavior, bragging, and inappropriate sexual activity didn’t begin with the advent of texting or Twitter; it’s just the way ratchetness gets made public, and often makes its way back to parents.

Flipping about what your child does online is a worthy battle. But parents (and other guardians) who want a chance at winning the war may do well to keep their focus on changing behavior and developing positive mindsets in the real world (either that or go analog by tossing all the computers and mobile phones, which isn’t really realistic in a digital world). If you can instill the right values in your child (the hard part), they’re a whole lot less likely to devalue themselves in life or online.

What effective ways have you dealt with your teens and their social media/ texting habits?

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk