Raised by the Internet (Or Wolves)

Shane and Max HawaiiThe election of 2016 was an interesting time in our household (as if there was ever a time that was not interesting). Both of my sons were on the debate team at their high school and both were informed and interested in the political process. One night I went into Max’s room and he was on his phone. He said, “Did you know you can sign up to get texts from Donald Trump?” I said, “To be honest, it had not occurred to me.” He said, “I’m reading my texts from Donald.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “I think I can also sign up for Snapchats from Bernie.” I said, “I think Bernie has Twitter.” He said, “Whichever. I need to sign up.”

A few weeks later, Max said, “Donald Trump texted me and said that he’s going to make America great again.” Shane said, “What does that MEAN? What isn’t great about America?” Max said, “I’ll tell you what isn’t great about America. Our refusal to convert to the metric system. We are only one of three countries in the entire world that doesn’t use the metric system.” I may be one of the few people in this country who believes that high school students may be able to fix some of this shit. Not that I could possibly wrap my brain around the metric system. I still use my fingers for basic arithmetic.

The Internet and social media can be a great thing. And it can also be a confusing world for parents. When do you let your kid have a cell phone? What about parental controls on the Internet? Well, guess what? While you’re worried about your kid surfing porn, he (or she) is on WebMD checking medical symptoms. Or finding out fun facts about your prescriptions. Or checking up on political candidates. So, porn is the last thing you should worry about.

One afternoon, Max said to Shane, “My right arm is all numb and tingly. Isn’t that what happens when you have a heart attack?” Shane said to him, “No. That’s what happens when you’re having a stroke. Check the Internet.” Then he left me alone with the Master-Web M.D.-researcher. Max spent the entire afternoon telling me that he was having pinching sensations in his lower arm and that he couldn’t feel his hands. (But somehow, miraculously, he managed to play Xbox in between bouts of research on the Internet). WebMD informed him that he may have diabetes, tumors, alcoholism, liver disease, carpal tunnel, and HIV. I had to set up an appointment with his doctor that week. He had none of the above.

Not too long ago, Max told me, “Do you know that you will eat seven spiders in your sleep in your lifetime?” I asked him, “Where did you get this information?” He said, “Internet.” I said, “Max, that’s not always reliable information.” “Yes, it is, Mom. I Googled it.” “Okay, well, what were your search terms?” I asked him. He said, “I put in ‘fun facts.'” I said, “Really? Seven spiders in my lifetime and that’s a fun fact?” He said, “I think you need to reconsider your idea of fun.” Touché, Max. Touché.

So, my job as mom is to ensure that no one swarms the moat and enters the castle at night (the dogs aid in this).  I provide liquids and solids for sustenance. I give out cash as requested and as available. And I make sure that the WiFi doesn’t go down, so my kids can research how to survive in this wilderness.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. Let’s be real. As adults, we read our social media and react to the BS that is posted there without even doing any research or fact checking. But when it comes to our kids, all we do is lock in parental controls to make sure they don’t hear swear words or see naked people. Well. I’m sure that horse left the barn. Your kids already know the “F”-word. “FALSE.”

The only parental control you need is this: Answer their questions. Remember, you were there once. Be for them what you wanted for you, when you were a child. When you begin from love, there is no wrong. There is only the chance to raise your child, and yourself, up, up, up. What is the worst thing that can happen? You may have to re-set the WiFi. Or learn the metric system. Either way, who fucking cares. You can look up the directions on the Internet.

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