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I remember when I first saw my daughter in the delivery room. I felt a complex cocktail of emotions from excitement to worry, panic and everything in between.

But the one feeling that trumped them all is the feeling of being a parent. It’s that one indescribable feeling that all parents share – the feeling of creating a life, being responsible for it, and wanting to protect it. It’s like my life had a new .

“Congratulations, you have a healthy baby girl!”

Those words cemented my existence as a proud parent. I held my daughter Julie in my hands. Growing up, she was always a curious kid amazed with the world around her. She was always a sweet, innocent, and caring kid full of wonder. Whether it was a stray ladybug or an airplane passing by, she wanted to examine the mysteries of the world around her.

Nowadays, almost 17 years later, Julie spends her time glued to her phone. She never looks up from it unless she’s doing her makeup.

When she steps out into the real world, it’s to go to parties and raves. What used to be a thirst for curiosity has turned into a thirst for all things alcohol. The sweet, innocent girl I once knew was gone, and so began my teenage daughter’s new digital life.

A Parent’s Dillema

There are some things that parenthood never prepares you for. Growing up, I’ve always considered the slightest punishment or curfew against me as a declaration of war. Now that I’m starting to fit into my parent’s shoes, the lines start to get less blurry.

I go past their actions at face value and start to see the reasoning behind them. Maybe if they hadn’t done what they did, I would be a different person today.

This makes me think about the kinds of rules I should be setting for my own daughter now. There are many places I can look to for examples: parents in my social circle, my friends and my family members. But, of course, my parenting model is going to be rooted in my own childhood.

I’m going to be using my own parents as a reference, whether it’s an example that I need to follow or one that I should avoid.

No matter what I do, I can’t just take my parents’ style as it is. After all, every aspect of a parenting style is a product of its time. The underlying ideas might be the same, but the execution and results always vary.

As a parent, I have to be mindful of the fact that my Julie lives in a different time than I did when I was a teenager. Some things may have changed for the better and some for the worst. I can’t just project my own childhood on her for the sake of “building character.”

For example, if my daughter started reading books heavily, I’d think she’s suddenly got a developed mind and probably will have a knack for academics.

Go back a few decades to my grandparents’ time and having your kid burying their nose into books 24/7 was the modern-day equivalent to staring down at their smartphone. And speaking of smartphones…

The Taste of Digital Life

My daughter first asked for a smartphone when her friends started communicating on group chats. They would make plans for study groups, hanging out, and social events on there.

Julie was starting to feel left out as more and more of their conversations would take place on these chats. She felt like she was drifting away from her social circle, and I couldn’t just let it happen to her.

Eventually, I caved in and got her a new smartphone after making her promise not to let it affect her life. Of course, now I know that it was a futile attempt. At the time, though, my daughter was over the moon and I was happy watching her be happy.

Julie found herself giddy with the concept of interacting on various social media apps. I could almost see her childhood curiosity spark up once again. At least, that was the case until…

My Daughter’s New Life

Tonight, I’m sitting on my living room couch, watching the news. It’s almost 2 in the morning and I feel myself dosing off. As I sit here, my daughter is out at some party I don’t know about with people I have never met. I don’t expect her to come home until the sun rises, maybe not even then.

She’s probably out drinking, even though she isn’t old enough to. She’s getting into all kinds of nightclubs and bars that should be turning her away. She can bypass them all with her fake ID. I remember when I first found out about it.

Apparently, she had gotten it off someone she met from Instagram. It looks convincingly real and I doubt anyone can tell the difference. Sometimes, I like to tell myself it is real so I can pretend my daughter is old enough to be doing the things she does.

This didn’t happen overnight. As my daughter started using social media, she started cultivating a new life there. She stopped living in the real world and started living on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. I remember those names because that’s how her new “friends” introduce themselves when they come to pick her up.

According to them, Julie is a party animal who never says no to a new celebration or party. That’s what her life revolves around now: drinking, partying, and connecting with people over social media.

I’ve stopped fighting over it. Now, I wait and pray that she comes home safely. If she’ll be sober enough, I’ll get her something to eat. The only question I’ll be allowed to ask her is, “Did you have fun?”Afterwards, she’ll stumble into bed and repeat the cycle again the next day. This is my daughter’s new digital life.

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