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Tech & Media

My Fight With Dean Cain, And Other Online Milestones My Kids Were Exposed To

Oct 13, 2022

My 13-year-old daughter is seated at the desk where we keep the family computer.

They inquire, pointedly, “Mom?”

I ask them what’s up, perched on the couch, slightly distracted by the day’s Wordle.

They wanted to know if I really had a Costco hot dog for breakfast.

I wondered how they could possibly know that.

They hadn’t even been in my vehicle, where the distinctive scent of Polish sausage still lingered.

“You tweeted about it this morning.”

Here's what Janice Quirt found when she went on TikTok for the first time. 

We Live Our Lives In Public

Nobody prepares you for the day your child is finally old enough to Google you.

It’s not as though it’s a big secret — my Twitter profile is public, and both my kids know my username.

I knew it was inevitable one day, I just thought there would be some sort of warning, like the appearance of a horseman.

"They wanted to know if I really had a Costco hot dog for breakfast."

As my kids have grown older, both have become increasingly aware of my online presence. This is an issue unique to my generation — Gen X and older Millennials grew up without technology, coming into our young adult years as the internet era changed rapidly.

There was no cyber trail for us to follow to see what our parents had done when they were younger, or a record of thoughts they expressed when we weren’t around to witness them.

Now we must navigate an uncharted path as our own offspring realize we’ve been around long enough to have a digital footprint, and they're often savvier than we are at digging into that information.

Learning In Real Time

Here are some things my teen has learned about me (and has asked for clarification about) on Twitter:

  • Ryan Reynolds is at the top of my hall-pass list.
  • I troll her father (on the only social media platform he’s joined) a reasonable, but not cruel amount.
  • I talk about mental health and politics a lot (like, a lot a lot), and it makes some people pretty mad.
  • Who is Dean Cain and what is a D-list celebrity (if you had to go Google who that is, thank you for proving my point)?

They already had some awareness of number three after I received my first-ever death threat via direct message in the summer of 2020 after tweeting something politically charged.

It opened up an important conversation for us about online safety, but even more broadly, about systems of privilege and how being outspoken on the internet is a very different experience for people of colour (especially women), the LGBTQIA+ community, disabled folks and other marginalized groups.

Why raising a kid in the age of information has left Laura Mullin worried.

More Learnings From The Armchair of Parenting

Here are some additional things I’ve taught my kids about having a social media presence:

You have agency

I’ve been writing and publishing about my parenting experiences since well before either of my children even knew what a keyboard was.

Most of the stories I told back then centered around my experience with postpartum depression, and the anecdotes I did share about my little ones seemed universal to other parents’ experiences.

It felt relatively harmless when they were too young to know what the internet was or feel any sense of shame or embarrassment about their antics.

As they’ve gotten older, I’ve become more thoughtful about which parts of their experiences I share, no matter how much they may intersect with my own. I no longer post photos or funny comments from our conversations without their consent. I run it by them first and ask if I can share. If they say no, I don’t push it.

As they mature and begin to use social media, I’m hopeful this will help them understand boundaries and to be mindful of what they share. But I also want them to remember they don’t have to share what is theirs or someone else’s, especially if it makes them or someone else feel unsafe.

Be authentic, but protect yourself

I try to be an open book with my kids (in age-appropriate ways).

They know about my mental health journey, my affinity for colourful language and that on Fridays, I’m 70 per cent composed of dry shampoo.

This is how I try to treat my social media, and Twitter is the social media platform where I’m most uncensored.

I discuss vulnerable topics and try to share my behind-the-scenes experiences as much as I do the highlight reels in hopes it will resonate with others.

There’s a fine line between sharing and oversharing, though. I’m trying to help my kids understand the internet is forever. It’s always worth pausing and walking away for a few hours before sharing something emotional, whether it’s with one person or a larger audience.

Once you put something out there, you can’t always control how it will be used, and even impulsively posting then deleting it shortly after doesn’t guarantee someone won’t see and remember (or worse, screenshot or download) it.

Feelings are real and valid, but they can change quickly.

My children may learn the hard way — as I did — that it may feel important to share big feelings or sensitive content in the moment, then wish they’d held off until some of those feelings had leveled out.

Have fun.

If they aren’t enjoying themselves and it’s making them feel emotionally drained or unsafe, I want them to know it’s OK to walk away for a while and shut out the noise.

Pick your battles

If they're going to get into late-night Twitter feuds with former '90s television stars (unlikely, but perhaps there will be a more modern version of this for themselves), be prepared to lock down your direct messages and exercise that block button until your index finger feels like it's going to fall off.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning the former Man of Steel has surprisingly thin skin, and I regret nothing.

Ultimately I'm hoping that by seeing me navigating the internet in ways that allows for breaks and a bit of patience for sharing thoughts, that they will be able to enjoy these spaces for their best parts. 

Article Author Tamara Schroeder
Tamara Schroeder

Tamara Schroeder is a freelance writer from Alberta who graduated from the journalism program at Mount Royal University so long ago, it was still a college at the time.

When she isn't listening to her nine- and 12-year old talk about Minecraft and Animal Crossing, you can usually find her running, enjoying the mountains or talking to her lively Twitter community about everything from ADHD and mental health to the time she got tipsy at a Fred Penner adult sing-along and spent $300 on a life-size concert poster.