Is there a single relationship that works without it? Marriage, friends, business, religious relationships all thrive on trust. We trust our healthcare providers, childcare providers, teachers, family, and other parents as we navigate parenting. And sometimes we even trust the internet. I’ve used everything from parenting blogs to WebMD to help me with my kids. There is no short supply of advice available any time of day. Use your search bar and nearly any topic can yield over three million results in seconds. If you’re using social media, you don’t even have to search. A Facebook friend, blogger you follow, or that magical media algorithm will gladly put hundreds of articles at your fingertips every day, just click the link.
But has the internet really earned our trust?
Does having so many opinions available to us drown out the most important trust relationship we have? Have we forgotten how to trust our gut?
A few months ago, an article which emphatically insisted that ALL teenagers have secret social media accounts was circulating through my Facebook friends. After seeing the same article appear, posted by concerned parents I trust, I decided to read it myself. The next week, it was a blog post on a parenting site assuring me that every single teenager, no exceptions, was misusing their phones and the only useful weapon in a parent’s arsenal was to violate your teenager’s privacy (which they didn’t need anyway) and READ ALL THE TEXTS WITH NO WARNING. Holy cow my teenage daughter was sitting in the next room with a phone and a computer and WHAT WAS SHE EVEN DOING IN THERE??
I gave those articles such a prominent place within my trust circle, I forgot to listen to myself.
I started to doubt my parenting philosophy and question why I gave my kids so much privacy and autonomy over their own relationships. I’ve got one kid in college and another in high school. Had I completely messed up by giving them room to navigate without my constant supervision before they were ready? Maybe I have been wrong for 20 years! I thought I was doing okay. But now the internet, social media, and the unresearched opinions of people I have never met, had me doubting myself and my children.
I ran to my daughter’s room. “What are you doing on your phone right this second? Can I see?” She looked at me like I had lost all sense of reason but she handed me her phone which she was using to listen to music and turned her computer screen so I could see her original poem she was editing for English class. I had gotten this far, why stop now? I pushed my gut instinct aside and dived in. “Do you have secret social media accounts? Are you now or have you ever sexted? Do you have inappropriate relationships? Do you ever have thoughts or act on those thoughts to self-harm?”
Pause for breath.
And then I heard it.
The sudden distrust of my child that was hanging in the room. Because not only had I doubted myself, I allowed those doubts to cloud my feelings for my kid.
She showed me her texts and social accounts. To be honest, I wouldn’t make the same choices she makes. I wouldn’t have said that thing or liked that comment. But she’s not me. And my gut tells me that being different from me isn’t the same thing as needing to be perpetually monitored. Before I left the room, she said the most profound statement:
“Mom, you raised me to be honest and trustworthy. I have not violated that trust. Sometimes the internet lies.”
Trust in our children. That might be one of the most important trust relationships on the planet. My kids have done nothing to cause me to withdraw my trust and until they do, they get my trust without question. Sometimes we need to step away from all the information swirling around on our phones, computers, and friend groups. We need to take a deep breath and trust ourselves.
For some of you, your gut is telling you to read all the texts, to allow computers in high traffic-ways only, to be more hands-on than my gut tells me. That’s good!
Just trust your gut.
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