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Ask Rene: My Kids Trashed Me Online!

Love your advice and am hoping you can send some my way. My problem has to do with teens and technology.

I have four children between the ages of 13 and 23, who, like most young people, are heavy into technology. They spend a lot of time instant messaging each other as well as communicating via Facebook and Twitter. I follow some of their friends on the latter, just so I can keep up on what’s going on.

Teen instant messaging

Ask Rene:
My Kids Trashed Me Online!

Hi Rene:

 Love your advice and am hoping you can send some my way. My problem has to do with teens and technology.

 I have four children between the ages of 13 and 23, who, like most young people, are heavy into technology. They spend a lot of time instant messaging each other as well as communicating via Facebook and Twitter. I follow some of their friends on the latter, just so I can keep up on what’s going on.

 Recently, two of my kids slacked off on their chores and as punishment I took away their phones, only to be used when they go out of the house. So the other day, I happened to check the tweets by some of their friends and thought to check on those of my own offspring as well. What I saw made my eyes pop out of my head and broke my heart too. My kids, my own flesh and blood, who I carried for nine months, were trashing me! Not just saying bad things but using foul language too! It was such a shock because neither my husband nor I cuss so I wondered where it came from.

 But one of the most troubling aspects was the way they were talking about me. It was disrespectful and degrading and frankly I expect more of them. The other puzzling part is that they completely left their dad out of it; none of the foul language was directed at him. I was the sole target of their ire.

 Rene, I don’t know what to do. My husband wants to confront them but I want to forgive and forget about it. I’m so confused and hurt by this. What would you do?

 Signed:

Hurt in Hawaii

Dear Hurt:

Okay first, from one mother to another, a cyber hug; this job is freakin’ hard  ain’t it ? There are few things worse than finding out those you care so deeply for, have thrown you under the wheels of the bus and it’s one of the things that makes us worry about being vulnerable. We’d like to think things are different with family and I believe for the most part they are. But here’s what I think is going on in your situation and what I recommend.

YOUR KIDS DO LOVE YOU:  I really don’t think your kids don’t love you as much as they are angry with you and, because they’re immature, they don’t know how to properly express that. They did what young people do, they vented online. In our day, we picked up our princess telephone and called our best friend to complain about our totally unhip parents. We may have even called them a name or two. Same action, different channels. Your mom and my mom never found out because it was a closed system, two friends on a phone. Your kids basically took out a billboard on Sunset Boulevard to spew their venom. That’s a big mistake and a very bad habit to get into.

YOUR KIDS WERE SHOWING OFF: Teens want to bond with their friends and what better way to do than railing about how uncool your folks are? Adolescence is a hard place to be; kids are straddling the gray area between childhood and adulthood. They’re longing for autonomy but too much of that scares them. So as much as they rail against having boundaries placed upon them, they know they need and want those parameters but it’s too baby-ish to admit. So they do what they can to look tough. Get where I’m going here? They talk a good game in front of their friends but the reality is very different.

YOUR HUSBAND IS RIGHT: Time for a family meeting, to be headed by him, not because he’s a man, but because he is a revered figure in their lives. In my home, my husband’s interaction with the kids on a daily basis is less frequent than my own but more intense. At this meeting, your husband will hand the kids a printout of all the offending tweets and ask them to read them aloud, with you at the table. It might be hard to hear and you may shed some tears but I doubt they are going to be able to get through them all. Next, your husband asks them to explain themselves and if they have anything to say to you. I suspect tears by them and an apology will follow. Then your husband is going to tell them they will NEVER AGAIN speak about the woman he loves that way and that the two of you will be monitoring all of their social media habits. Come up with a punishment for that infraction and make sure it is one you can stick to.  But for this infraction, I’d take their phones away for a good long time, even when they do go out. In fact, they wouldn’t BE going out; this sounds like it is time for grounding. That’s up to you but I would DEFINITELY be taking those phones. I would also put up a one or two line tweet/Facebook message stating that your kids would be off social media for a time while they learn how to be social again. Seriously.

For you mom, these final words. You mention that you are worried now that all of cyberspace knows how your kids feel about you. Who cares? Your kids are not the first and won’t be the last to bitch about their parents. And trust me, by the time it goes out online, it is old news (have you ever tried to keep up on Twitter?). And while we want our kids to like us, that is not our primary job/concern as parents. It is to PARENT! That means taking an unpopular stance sometimes and knowing we’ll be called names, either under their breath, over the princess telephone or in cyberspace. One more thing; now would also be an opportune time to warn your kids that nothing EVER goes away in cyberspace and that many people have lost jobs and scholarships because of the stuff they’ve indiscreetly put online.

Good luck mommy, you’re gonna be fine!

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12 Comments

  1. Irene

    July 20, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Yes, yes, yes…motherhood is not for the faint at heart…

  2. That Writing Chic

    July 20, 2011 at 11:37 am

    First of all, the teenage years are the HARDEST years to get through. The good news is they won’t last always. I had a very similar experience with my daughter when she was a teenager. She had a myspace page and wrote several blog posts that I NOW realize was her venting, but, which were very defamatory, disrespectful hurtful and downright lies. When I read them I was hurt, and embarrassed, especially when all of her friends were her supporters and joined in as well. Rene is so on point: A lot of it is showing off, some of it is saving face – trying to deflect the reason they were disciplined and minimize their behaviors. I felt like I needed to DEFEND myself, but, had to realize, like mentioned above – to whom? Her friends? Keep your chin up and rest assured that you are not alone and deep down inside, your children KNOW the values they were taught. My daughter’s 24 now and I couldn’t love her more!

  3. Will Jones

    July 20, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I LOVE Rene’s idea! Oh man, that’s gonna be a GREAT family meeting! That’s one that you should record for enjoying later on! And if it makes your kids cry, you could put them on YOUTUBE! LOL (jk)

    If I had a nickel for every time I ever cursed my father under my breath, I’d probably have just enough to pay my kids a nickel for everytime they’ve cursed me. Chances are the reason your kids didn’t get as mad at their father is because usually , DAD’S RULES ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE. Whether he’s happy, sad, angry, or asleep, his rules are the same. And if someone breaks it, it’s their own fault because they knew exactly what would happen to them. It’s not dad’s fault; it’s the rules fault. With mom, sometimes she lets you get away with stuff and other times she doesn’t. So when she doesn’t, you feel like she should have, and you get angry at her because she let you slide before and now she’s not being fair.

    And, BTW… you may have a child that’s 13, but you don’t have a child that’s 23. How old were the actual offenders?

  4. David C Freeman

    July 20, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I’m with will. We guys did this in our adolescence too. Cursing does seem to be more in regular use among teens these days too. Thanks to our media saturated lives they have to grow up faster, but how fast CAN a kid grow up? It takes time. I sense the words hurt more because they are in writing and in a sense, now tangible. I used to curse my parents and it was out and over. I’d vented. If My Mom only knew what I’d said! But with twitter it just sits there in cyber space. The good news is it’s yesterdays news. The Kids have likely already moved on to the next grounded kid’s ‘Mean & nasty Mom!”
    I agree that a Dad run meeting will get them to understand writing on twitter is different from venting. They DO need to understand the difference. There are lasting effects to written words and statements on social media. It will help them keep a job, or a friend, later in life. Rene! Excellent advice. One of your best yet!

  5. Joss

    July 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Oh Rene, I think it’s going to be a family meeting that will teach a very valuable message and just thinking about all the emotion makes me cry. That’ll be a tough one but I think this mom will never have to experience being slammed on the Internet ever ever again.

    Hugs to her and her family.

  6. m.e. johnson

    July 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Ha ha ha and ha! Rene, you are so right on. I’d pay to be a fly on the wall at that meeting.

    For some reason I flashed back to… after a scolding, grounding, whipping or whatever, Mom could be in the next room and would say, “Don’t you roll your eyes at me!” and we would wonder how she knew.

  7. Peppercorn16

    July 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I’m sorry that happen WOW! it’s a nightmare to find out someone close to you like family or friends say bad things about you and you find out about it

    And I would say that their just being kids but that’s making excuses for them

    She should confront her kids and let them know she know about what they’ve said ( please don’t let them know how you know just that you know and it hurt your feelings) and at the same time she could use it to her advantage she has the more power over her kids. The fact that they felt the need to say horrible things about her in print the the whole world to read was tacky.

    LOL they think her taking the phone was bad she should also take other things away from them like t.v. , ipods, computer, visits from friends and hanging out with friends and maybe strip their rooms clean that they have to earn back the t.v. ipod, computer and most important her respect and trust

    It’s not going to kill them to not have any of those things taking away from them until the learn that she is the mother and she should not and will not have to put up with her own kids bad mouthing her did what she was suppose to do as a parent when they slack off

    Maybe this will be a lesson learn that mama don’t play when you disrespect her

  8. Lynn (@lynnsc08)

    July 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    As always, great advice Rene! While my boys aren’t teenagers just yet, it’s still a struggle. This is a great example for all parents to have rules and consequences even when the kids are younger.

  9. Cody Williams

    July 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Rene, this one is scary.

    Recently a teenager in Florida used a hammer to bludgeon both his parents to death, closed the door to their bedroom where they lay slain and had a party in the same house.

    An extreme I know.

    With all the issues I had with my parents as a teen I was frightened shytless to ever air those concerns to friends. We were taught to never, and I mean never, air our family business in public. No matter what went on in our home we were to present a united front in public. (looking back, nothing that my parents did ever amounted to a hill of beans.)

    Today, in cartoons and elsewhere in the media parents are presented a buffoons, ridiculed and made fun of.

    I think the advice you gave is correct. Call them out and make them feel bad about what they did. Then line them up and shoot them, before they shoot you.

  10. Stace

    July 23, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    My daughter is 17 and I follow her on twitter and we are Facebook friends so I see everything she post. So she has to go old school and call a friend to complain about me 🙂 she recently broke the rules and had her phone and Internet taken away, so now she has to write to complain… lol

  11. TechyDad

    November 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I’d definitely vote for a family meeting to hammer home two points:

    1) You do *NOT* talk about your parents using such language. It’s completely disrespectful. To complain about your parents is one thing. It’s kind of expected that a teenager will complain about their parents. But using foul and degrading language is a no-no. At the end of the day, your parents are family and deserve some respect.

    2) Anything you post online is visible and does not go away. This is especially true for tweets on a non-protected account. Lots of kids seem to be very computer literate and yet very illiterate when it comes to online safety. This will be a good lesson in online safety.

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