kids

"We all gasped when we saw it." A provocative teen selfie has rattled my parent group.

When you’re a teenager you don’t really envision being a mum of a teen yourself, let alone raising teens alongside the very teens you grew up with.

But this is what’s happened with two of my special girlfriends and the seven kids between us. All three of us lead such busy mum lives that we’re not actually a part of each other’s daily grind, but for the last 30 years we’ve remained close friends, and we catch up as often as we can. Our kids even fight like siblings, so I guess you can say we’re like family.

The reason I believe we’ve stayed such good friends is that we’re bonded by a colourful and humorous past, which is best left in the past.

From our own teen experiences with too much Passion Pop and parties all those years ago, we have now miraculously settled down and had our own mini me’s. And with our kids about to embark on similar journeys all I can think is good grief…

But there is one huge difference between our teen lives and theirs, one that really sets us apart – and that is their access to social media. Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, YouTube; you name it, they’ve got it.

Got teenagers who stay up all night using their phones? Watch this Mamamia video for a handy tip to avoid it. Post continues below.

Video via MMC

How many of us pre-mobile-phone-era people sweat at the thought of our more regrettable moments being captured on camera? I shiver at the notion.

My friends and I are all learner mums of teens and we may as well have L-Plates on our foreheads – but I suspect we’re about to learn a whole new series of lessons.

It’s a topic we discussed in detail when the girls caught up last. The image that sparked the conversation was a photo posted on Instagram by a 15-year-old known to us. She was wearing a miniskirt and crop top with a provocative pose. The thing is, there was absolutely nothing wrong with what the girl was wearing. Our girls have worn similar outfits. But we gasped when we saw it.

Why?

Because it was posted on Instagram for her hundreds of followers to see. The simple fact of the matter was we were afraid for her. We were afraid of how boys her age would perceive the photo. We were afraid knowing how easily screenshots can be captured only to be distributed further than their intended audience. After all, it was shown to us by a shared source.

ADVERTISEMENT

We were afraid that other teens, like this girl, are unwarily using social media for attention.

As adults we know that social media is one big attention-fest – it’s just part of our lives now and there really is no escaping it. But we are new to raising teens on it.

As mums we all agreed when it came to our views on teen social media use and what we will allow our children to post. We also agreed that it’s important to set ground rules for them from the outset.

Our teens haven’t started posting suggestive photos just yet and I’m silently hoping my eldest sticks to taking photos of herself in her dirtbike gear rather than shifting into miniskirts and crop tops. But I still have two other daughters, and given their confident personalities I know that it’s not going to be an easy fight when they hit their teens.

parenting teen girls
Lidija with her three daughters. Image: Supplied/Lidija Zmisa

I believe we do have to be concerned for our kids. It doesn’t matter what age they start using social media – my three already have it. What matters is that we as parents are monitoring their accounts as well as what they are posting.

We need to explain to our kids that not every user has good intentions. It may not make you your teen’s best friend now or ever, but that’s not really what parenting is about, is it? It’s about enlightening and protecting our kids the best way we can.

Unfortunately we’ve just got a little more to deal with than our parents did.

Do you monitor social media use in your home? Tell us about it in the comments.

Lidija Zmisa is a mum of three girls, wife and freelance writer. She is currently writing a book for middle grade readers.

00:00 / ???