With this new series, my intention is to help foster and nurture an open and profound bond between father and daughter, one that transcends the awkwardness of puberty. (I wrote about it in more detail here.)
And in that spirit, I’ve agreed that once a week I will answer – honestly – any question my husband puts to me.
So, here’s what hubby has come up with for me this week…
Hubby: Following the #TeenTalk campaign, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to social media; though really, as far as your readers are concerned – how can I follow Nadia (Sawalha)? I can’t, can I? So, with that in mind, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Right? So I’d like to see you write part two, this time focusing on the issues associated with social media. Go.
Me: That’s not really a question, is it! But fair enough – it’s a very relevant topic, and no matter how novel or difficult, we do need to find a way of navigating this territory. Not just you and I, but our generation.
I suppose the obvious place to begin is with that which we touched on last week: what/how much information is accessible to our children, and whether they’re likely to seek it out.
Too Much Information?
I think the short answer to what and how much is, basically, all of it; whatever it is they may be hoping to find (and – scarily – a great deal they were perhaps not looking for) – it’s all going to be there.
Essentially, it comes down to how creative one is: if you can conceive it, you can find it. That’s pretty frightening.
Naturally, there are filters etc available, but I think it’s naïve to presume parental controls are failsafe. I imagine it to be more a case of fool proof, ie. it may not be simple to get around, but I’ve no doubt a little thinking outside the box would enable our bright children to look for and locate anything that takes their fancy. For example, mobile phones now have ‘incognito’ search facilities, and we’d be silly to think they won’t figure that out and use it to their benefit, should they be so inclined.
But is this even a problem? Is our daughter likely to go searching for material we’d prefer to keep from her until she’s mature enough to properly understand what she’s seeing/reading?
I’ll come back to that. Because, first, this has thrown up another issue…
Of course, we’ll be far better able to monitor the situation when any internet access takes place on family devices. But at which age is it acceptable/necessary for our youth to have their own mobile phone or tablet?
It seems completely crazy to me that preschool children have them! And yet I must accept that if we deny Pixie the same, we’ll actually be holding her back – they’re widely used from day one in schools now, and it will only be an advantage for Pixie if she’s familiar with the technology presented to her.
Which leads me onto another grave concern…
This is a great fear for me. Our children’s default is innocence, and by extension therefore – trust. But everybody is online these days; everybody. And for every normal person, there will be another abnormal one. And for every second or third abnormal person, there will be a wicked degenerate who has the additional danger of being tech savvy and having an understanding of the psychology of kids; which, after all, is not so difficult to fathom.
These evil predators have only to tap into the usual vulnerabilities of a child, and with a few clicks they can have the perfect avatar to allow them to wreak their malevolence.
They have no compassion; they have no conscience. Our children are their prey and we must protect them.
How Can We Protect Our Children From Grooming?
Education is Key
I know. I know, I know. I really am like a stuck record. But it’s because I truly believe it’s the only way we can hope to have a handle on a complex and potentially very harmful situation:
We must educate our youngsters.
The most damaging thing we can do in our quest to safeguard our offspring is to shelter them absolutely from the threats around them.
It’s incredibly difficult because in revealing those hazards, we are removing some of their innocence. But teaching them how to stay safe is non-negotiable.
Striking the right balance is going to be nigh on impossible. I like to imagine the information we feed our little ones as a spectrum, from neglect all the way through to wrapping them in cotton wool.
But there’s a significant grey area, the entirety of which can be considered healthy. If we stay within the boundaries of that range, we’ll be caring for our daughter in the best way we’re able.
Other parents may choose to be at the opposite end of that grey area to us – and that’s okay. So long as none of us step outside of it to stand at either extremity, we’re doing our bit to protect the welfare of the next generation – by equipping them with the tools they need to keep themselves as safe as possible.
Keeping Our Wits
Education in this matter has to include our own too. A large part of the problem is that technology is constantly evolving, at a phenomenal rate. It’s crucial that we keep our finger on the pulse of social media and online technology in general – because if we don’t, new hazards will crop up and we’ll be totally oblivious to their existence.
That’s a bit of a bonus about my job actually – in theory, I should be relatively aware of any new trends and threats emerging on the web.
Putting Safety Measures into Practice
Ultimately, it’s impossible to state specific ages for specific allowances. Children develop in their own time, at their own pace, and what’s right for Pixie may not be right for our neighbour – or even for Pixie’s sibling (should there be one!).
We must remain flexible and adaptable. And, as we’ve discussed before, we must be open.
Our biggest weapon against any potential threat is good communication with daughter.
Like this? You can check out more of my hubby’s ponderings (and my attempts to answer them) here.