Technology has a way of complicating, as well as simplifying, our lives.
Our parents -- and now we -- look wistfully upon the simpler times of our youth, when there were fewer things to worry about. Especially in the arena of parenting.
When the only porn kids were exposed to was a pilfered Playboy magazine; when creeps couldn't prey on kids from afar; when having something on your permanent record meant on a sheet of paper in a filing cabinet.
When parents knew all of their children's friends, real and imaginary.
Life as a parent in the age of ubiquitous, limitless, electronic connectedness is fraught with anxiety.
In recent months we've written about four cases in which suburban middle and elementary students have been caught sharing nude pictures of each other, viewing porn on school grounds and the like.
Sarah Katula, an advanced practice nurse in psychiatry at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, told reporter Robert Sanchez for a story this week that there is nothing new about kids being curious, impulsive risk-takers.
"The kids haven't changed," she said. "When kids back in the day were exploring their sexuality, they might go into their parents' closet and find something naughty. Now they have so much more at their fingertips."
Cellphones, Wi-Fi enabled devices and school-supplied laptops are an integral part of the average suburban child's daily existence.
But phones aren't just for calling Mom to pick you up from cheerleading practice or to ask whether you can stay for dinner at a friend's house. Laptops are for far more than homework.
"Technology has made both parenting and teaching more complicated than it has ever been," said Jeff Arnett, spokesman for Barrington Unit District 220, during the sexting episode at Barrington Middle School's Station Campus. "I think these recent incidents remind us that we have to be even more vigilant in helping students understand the risks associated with technology, as well as the benefits."
A good parent is an involved parent. A good parent develops constant, sometimes uncomfortable dialogue with his or her kids. A good parent must be willing to ask the questions knowing the answers won't be pleasant. A good parent isn't a friend to a child but a mentor -- one who is willing to administer some tough love to keep that child from getting involved with something that can be truly harmful or have lasting consequences.
Your kids should not enjoy an expectation of privacy in their Internet lives, just as you would not have expected to have a group of secret friends in your childhood.
There are too many pitfalls for the child -- and even the parent -- to comprehend. Best to navigate that road together.