Trust. How much do you give your kids?

When is it cool, to be a cool parent? Or what's a cool parent?

When I was a kid, the cool parent was the one who let you go out and party, or even party at home with your friends. My mom was one of those. Yep, I had a "cool" mom - well she's still cool, but don't tell her I said that.

I thought it was great at the time and I was the envy of all my friends - they all knew they could drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes - and eventually smoke pot or do other things at my house. It was a hippy haven. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It seemed great at the time, but eventually, it led me to places I shouldn't have been.

Luckily for me, my ambitions of joining the Army after high school was enough to motivate me from straying too far down those paths. Many of my friends from high school weren't so lucky and struggled with drugs and homelessness for many years. I still have one friend in particular that still struggles even 20 years after high school.

I now use those examples of unencumbered childhood freedoms as an example of what not to do as a parent. So I had a cool, mom? Yeah, now looking back as a parent - maybe not so cool. I mean I do understand the logic she had at the time. She'd rather have me at home than out running around getting in trouble, but still. Anyways, even though I don't agree with her choice to let us do those things back then, I always had a very open relationship with her and could talk to her about absolutely anything.

What's a good parent?

We all want to be good parents, don't we? We want our kids to trust us and feel safe confiding in us. Not only do we want them to FEEL SAFE, but we want them to BE SAFE. Well, I should say most parents want this.

Some parents seem to take that last one a little far - or at least I used to think so. The so called, "helicopter" parent. You know the one I'm talking about. The one that hovers over them and everything they do and won't let their kid out of eyesight. Anyways, I try not to be like that. Give them a little room to explore their environment - in the physical world and the online world.

I used to have lengthy conversations with my ex-wife about how to handle this. And I used to think my ex-wife was overbearing helicopter parent with our now 17-year-old, especially with online stuff. Now I'm thinking she was right and that now I may be too trusting and liberal with my other much younger kids.

I trust my kids - mostly - and try to give them the freedoms I think they should have without being too overbearing. The problem is the places kids hang out now or socialize at are completely different. For example, my teenage step-son goes to school and comes home and never leaves the house. He can see all of his friends online and they talk through Skype while gaming. He does this through his own free will. In fact, in the last two years, he's never once asked to socialize outside of school. He's a well-rounded and intelligent kid, but that can't be healthy, right? Or, is it just the way things are now?

Anyways, this last week it dawned on me - the kids no longer have to leave the house to get into trouble or get in with the wrong crowd. They can just sit there on their tablets or phones or computers and have the power and freedom to access to the whole world - the most wonderful and beautiful things to the deepest dark pits of humanity.

With all freedom and power comes great responsibility. 

Some of our children - which I've come to find out - are capable of abusing that. Or worse yet, using that as a way to discover the ways of the world without confiding in their parents or other adults. Humans are curious creatures and kids even more so.

The internet is full of all kinds of information. 

Things that used to take us hours to find at the library now take only minutes. Anything we've ever wanted to know is right there. Not all of it is true and we as adults know that. Well again, most of us know that. Children, however, have a much harder time discerning fact from fiction, would likely assume that whatever they find is fact, pure and simple.

This leads me to the sexuality aspect. Our society is starting to become very liberal and open to these things, even with our kids. Which is fine, to a degree. My youngest daughter who's in 5th grade has a friend who wants to be a boy when she grows up. I was shocked when my kid told me that her friend was transgendered, but only because it's such an adult idea - I think. I really try to be open to other ideas and points of view, but I think my ignorance may be getting in the way.

Moving on to other internet stuff...

There are some real creeps on the internet and they aren't always some greasy, thirty-something dude in his parent's basement with a computer. More often than not, it's usually their peers that are the creeps. It's crazy how easily persuaded kids can be persuaded to do things they wouldn't do in person. And all because they want to be accepted. I used to think it was just social media and random chat apps that I had to worry about, but basic texting SMS/MMS messaging is just as bad. TRUST ME.

And of course, there's always the more obvious and very easily accessible pornography. They no longer have to sneak in front of the TV in the middle of the night and watch the scrambled channel or raid their parent's magazine or VHS stash. It's right there; right on their table. Does anyone even have those magazines anymore?

So to prevent this, what do we do? Do we say no electronics? Or no electronics except under the strictest of circumstances? If restriction from electronics is the answer - until what age?

In the internet age am I living a pipe dream to think I can protect my children from the evils of the world? Maybe so. Doesn't mean I'm not going to try. I think I'll just limit what my kids can use, when and much they can use them, and filter as much stuff as possible.

What are your thoughts?

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