Internet Safety with a Story

It happened.

A little bit of my past spilled out to my 14 year old daughter during a heated verbal, shall I say, disagreement.

I could hear her talking and I when I peeked around the corner I saw her sitting in front of our main computer recording a video.  When I asked what she was doing, she innocently replied, “Answering these questions while I make a video.”

“What questions?”

“Questions on this website, Wattpad.”

“Huh? What’s that? And why are you videoing your answers?”

“Because mom, it’s fun.”

“Where is the video going to?”

“Mom, it’s not going anywhere.  Quit freaking out.  I’m just playing around.  The video is just on the computer.”

Two things happened here: 1) she copped an attitude and 2) I had no idea what Wattpad was or if the video really wasn’t being captured on their site. We are pretty diligent about monitoring what our teens do electronically and have several security measures already in place on their phones and computers with Verizon and Trend Micro online. Our motto is “These are the rules.  That’s fine if you don’t like them. We will take away the devices then.  It’s your choice.”  But her attitude combined with the mystery of this site, uncorked my best parenting moment. Not.

I sort of came unglued and launched into a lecture on internet safety and freaks in Istanbul coffee houses prowling for teenagers just like her and weirdos looking online for videos of cute 14-year-old girls to snatch and accessing websites without our approval and….

She said something back, but I don’t remember what it was because I was still coming unglued inside and a little scared that I was in over my head.  When she sat down and just stared at me, it gave me a second to re-group and screw my head back on straight.

“Mallory, we love you.  And my job as your mom is to protect you so that grow into the beautiful woman God has designed you to be.”

“I’m upset about this website thing because neither of us understand the full scope of the internet world and it’s power.  I’m watching and asking and investigating because  that’s my job.”

Then I said what I never thought I would tell her…

“When I was 14, no one cared what I was doing.  No one was watching me and no one was asking where I was.  Do you know what I was doing at 14?”

She shook her head.

“I was drunk, riding on top of cars in the desert with 20-year old boys.” Gulp. “And no one ever knew.”

Geez, where do you go from there?  We sat silently for a minute.  I kissed her forehead and stood.

“But God has changed my life and I get to do it differently with you.”

“OK, mommy.”

“Now, show me this website so I know what it is.”

And in that moment, a prayer that had felt so unanswered for so long, became clear. This is my purpose.  They are my purpose. This wasn’t as much about the internet tonight as much as it was about being a mom.  A raw, unfiltered, transparent, available mom with a story to tell about God’s redeeming grace.

Every measure of internet security is my extension of caring. Of interest. Of love. My hope is that she comes to understand it from that angle instead of a restrictive noose.  Either way, parenting is only hard if you care.

BTW, Wattpad is a really great website for igniting your storytelling ideas.  You should check it out.  I did.


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