Old-school parenting revisited

By David Black / Guest Columnist

The arrival of pollen and prom signals summer is right around the corner. The talk around the water cooler (or coffee maker) will shift from yellow cars and allergies to stifling heat and vacations. Meanwhile, the younger versions of ourselves will be anxiously awaiting the freedom that comes with summer break.  While pollen and dread of the impending heat are worthy topics of conversation, so too are the risks lack of supervision affords the curious teen during the summer months.

Having grown up in Shelby County, I spent most summers as a child running around the neighborhood playing with other kids.  Occasionally, my mom would step out on the front porch and yell for me. I would run back to the house, only for my mother to say, “I wanted to make sure you were where you were supposed to be. You can go back and play.”  My mom would not only ask about me, but about my friends as well.  As I grew older, my boundaries expanded to include ball fields, local swimming pools, and even the occasional parking lot. (Everyone who grew up on the North end of Shelby County during that time will remember the DelChamps parking lot).  In those days, if a teenager was looking for something to do, that is where you went.  This was common knowledge and as a result, the area was also frequented by local law enforcement and the occasional parent.

It has been awhile since I hung out in that parking lot looking for something to do on a Friday night, and DelChamps has long since gone.  However, the need for teens to connect with each other and test boundaries will never change.  Now, twenty-five years later, I am part of the local law enforcement and with a few exceptions, there are not many parking lots where I can keep watch over our kids.  Less children are connecting in the streets and yards of neighborhoods playing capture the flag, instead they are connecting online through game systems and social media.  Meeting in a parking lot to share stories and interact has been replaced with streaks, snaps and chats.  Our sense of community interaction revolved around neighborhoods, ball fields and church events. However, our youth’s sense of community is rooted in social media and easy access apps.

So as parents, how do we protect our children from the dangers of today’s expanded community?  Simple. Occasionally, step out on the front porch and yell to make sure they are where they are supposed to be and doing what they are supposed to be doing. Ride through the parking lot and see what your child is doing and who they are with.  I am speaking metaphorically of course.  In today’s world the equivalent is setting parental restrictions on cellphones and other digital devices. Monitor your child’s social media content. More importantly, monitor who they follow and with whom they interact, not only on the account they tell you about, but check their other four or five “spam” accounts as well.  Through their expanded digital community, it only takes minutes to put together an impromptu house party and obtain any illegal substances they desire while you are at work. Please “step out on the front porch and start calling their name” before they have wandered too far to hear you.

 

David Black is a Sergeant with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office currently assigned as the Community Liaison Team Leader at Compact 2020.