Last week, I heard a disturbing news report about a popular retail clothing chain that is currently marketing a padded, "push-up" bikini top to girls as young as age 7. What??!! The report got me thinking about my own kids and all the things we face today as parents that encourage our kids to get on the fast track to becoming an adult. I decided to gather feedback from 6 other moms who have children ranging in ages from 6 to 16 and see what their thoughts are on this topic. I focused on three points: provocative clothing, cell phones and computers–specifically social networking sites like Facebook.
It turns out that when it comes to these subjects, we have very similar views. Let me begin with provocative clothing. While it’s easy to blame the retailer, we felt the real problem were the parents who buy the clothes. No little girl should be made to feel she’s not perfect just the way she is or that she should look like an adult. As one friend put it, "Stop buying the stuff and they’ll stop making it."
Cell phones are more complicated. While they can serve as a safety device in some ways (you can reach your child wherever, whenever), they also offer many challenges. I have learned the hard way that if you allow your pre-teen or teen to have a cell phone you must also keep tabs on their usage. Cell phones that go un-monitored are like giving your kids access to their friends (and vice versa) 24/7. Our rules are that phones are not allowed with them while doing homework, they must be turned off by 8:00 on school nights and we can review their call list at any time for any reason.
When it comes to social networking I found that most of the moms I spoke with feel this is something that should be reserved for teens. Again, the key is to set firm rules around usage. It seems to be the popular thing to see how many "friends" you can gather on these sites. I’ve seen teens who have over a thousand "friends" on Facebook! Do you think they really have that many friends? Of course not–in most cases they don’t even KNOW many of these people who they’ve give access to their photos, status updates and info. Scary, isn’t it? That’s why it’s so important to make sure you know who your child is in contact with online. Have access to her password and if you have an account yourself, it’s a good idea to make your child your "friend," which will give you even easier access to what’s going on.
Our kids are exposed to many things today and it’s important to monitor these many communication channels. From my recent discussions with other moms, I have found most of us are taking an active role in what our children wear and how they use today’s technologies. Don’t feel you’re being unreasonable if you won’t let little Susie wear that low cut top or have a cell phone before you’re comfortable with it. As one mom said, "We as parents should stick together and support one another so one parent doesn’t feel as if he or she is the only one saying no to this stuff."