I have had two teenage girls staying with me for most of the last week. Long story, short… everyone needs a safe place. Especially if they’re only just eighteen and come from a somewhat dysfunctional place, through no fault of their own.
They’re both gorgeous kids and I love them dearly. At the same time, they are driving me fucking insane. Partly because I am so damn jealous. Not of the being a teenager thing– that sucked, as we’ve already established. I’m more jealous of the sleeping like lazy pussy cats whenever they so desire.
Half their luck.
Anyway. I’m definitely getting an education in a million teenage things. Like ‘mint’ songs (cue rolling eyes and assertions of “Mad song, Auntie Lori. Lets just leave it at that.” What was I saying, about how I used to be cool…?). And ‘inboxing’ as a verb. And the very nasty side of Chat Roulette.
Not to mention the unholy mess that is teenagers on Facebook. The amount of communication that goes on with these girls and the people they know– as well as the people they don’t know– is terrifying. Facebook is like an extension of themselves. The look on their faces when I told them to lay off the wifi for an hour or so was priceless– I could almost see the seething anxiety it was causing them.
The more people communicate, I guess, the more open we become and the more we talk, and the thinner the boundaries of what is silent and taboo become.
But watching all that honesty and openness infiltrate the lives of girls who I’m tempted to view as still just babies at that age… it’s overwhelming and scary and I’m afraid for them, and for the millions of other kids out there growing up right now. I’m not positive, of course, but I think I may even be more fearful for the teenagers of 2013 than I ever will be for my own children.
Because this is all growing so fast. Our technology eats us in great belching bites– we are too smart for our ethics and morals. This flood of information, of communication… it seems unending right now. I can’t help but wonder if we will reach a place where the tidal wave of new stuff starts to slow and we can find some still waters.
Things are going to be very different, of course– they always are, after a flood. But the basic landscape of humanity… I’d like to think that will remain, underpinning whatever else comes.
It’s just that it’s all so new right now. Boundaries haven’t been tested, rules haven’t been made. There’s no sense of privacy or self–preservation and ’the worst that can happen’ hasn’t been established as yet.
I like to think that by the time my own kids hit that age, we’ll all have more experience at dealing with this new-found flood of information. I like to imagine that, in ten years time, this technology will be so mainstream that we’ll have no other option but to assimilate a whole new set of morals and ethics, ones that take into account what we do online and how accessible other people’s private information is to us. Maybe what we’ve lost in terms of privacy, we’ll begin to gain back again.
Or maybe not. I don’t know. I do know, having seen it first hand over the last few days, that an Internet connection is no longer an option for teenagers, but a necessity. I think I believe that social consequences should be factored into the decisions we make regarding our children’s overall well-being And, I think, that long term denial of Internet access to a teenage girl would be the equivalent to a small social death. Without anyone but the outcast in question to mourn it.
In a society where children are sadly sexualised and puberty is beginning younger and younger, the thought of giving sixteen year old girls that kind of access to everything is terrifying.
Ironically, having two Teen Princesses In Waiting as house-guests for the week made me appreciate my own little darlings that much more once they had left. A three year old and a five year old are blissful, compared to a seventeen and eighteen year old. They actually don’t make as much mess. They take up less room. They are heaps more fun.
And they actually talk, like, to me. One of the princesses actually sent me a message on Facebook to ask if she could borrow my hairspray. While we were in the same room.
And I think- indeed. It’s amazing how far we’ve come. And how much it feels like a home, with just the three of us there.