I've always been an "I got this" mom.
I never used one of those kid leashes. Never hired a nanny or tutor. Never relied upon family or friends to be part-time caretakers. Heck, I never even really used that baby monitor I got at my baby shower.
It was always easier and preferable to do it myself. I just considered it part of the mom job.
Then the Internet entered my kids' lives.
Never miss a local story.
Trying to keep up with my kids' social networking activity has become so overwhelming and exhausting that I am finally, after 14 years, waving the white flag in surrender.
I may need some help.
After a long day of work, school car pool, errands and dinner, it is impossible for me to regularly check my daughters' website histories, troll their Instagram accounts for forbidden bikini shots and spot check their smart phone text messages, not to mention all the activity and oversharing happening on Skype, Twitter and Snapchat.
I've never been a fan of blocking software or the Net Nanny mentality. It seems costly and easy to get around and a little paranoid.
I'd like to think our conversations about being savvy social network users have sunk in, but deep down I know that part of being a very young teenager is making very dumb mistakes. I just don't want everybody in the world to witness those mistakes.
Last week, a website surfaced on the Internet showing 14 explicit photographs of nude female students, some of them engaged in oral sex, reportedly from Cypress Bay High School in Weston. The news started me rethinking my loner approach to monitoring my kids' social activity.
Some of the 10 mostly freshmen girls in the images were identified by name. The photos were presumably taken by the girls, who then texted them in a moment of lost sanity to others, never expecting them to appear on an anonymous website calling them "Cypress Whores." The Broward Sheriff's Office began investigating the website as possible child pornography after kids in the 4,300-student school started sharing the site's link via Twitter. The site has since been taken down.
The Miami Herald's Michael Vasquez reported that one of the photographed girls was spotted openly weeping at school; another, faced with stares and whispers, abruptly walked out of class.
After reading this story and reviving my sunken heart, I started researching social monitoring apps and software. I came across everything from EyeGuardian, which now even alerts parents if their child poses with a gun on Facebook, to SocialShield, which summarizes your child's activity on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Google+ and other social networks on a weekly basis, rating risky behavior (profanity and talk of drugs or alcohol, violence, bullying, suicide, depression, predatory behavior and sex) from 1 to 10 like a credit report.
Many of these services are free, but it seems almost as tedious to receive and read these reports as it does to surveil my kids on my own.
Until I decide what to do, I may have to finally admit my weakness and call upon my family and friends to be my extra set of eyes.
Help me out here. Give me a heads up if you see something inappropriate or scary with my girls' names or images associated with it.
And while you're at it, keep an eye out for my husband, too. If I'm going to be a spy in the house of love, I might as well be a damn good one.