So this week I found out that 11 & 12 year old kids know far more than I thought they did.
I’m no idiot, I was once an 11 year old boy too. However spotting a littered copy of The Daily Sport and giggling at the amount of boobies on show was usually as far as my youthful innocence was stretched back then.
Fast forward approx 20 years, throw in social media and now we have major problems protecting our children’s youthful innocence. We now live in a world where we have to force children to grow up far too soon. If they don’t, then they’re leaving themselves open to all sorts of exposure. This isn’t fair.
We are very techy in our house. We have phones, tablets, computers, laptops etc all over. (Don’t try robbing us, we have a huge dog…. A Pug) I obviously share quite a bit of content online via the blog and social media, but it’s all very selective. I don’t mind admitting that and it doesn’t mean what I publish is fake either. It simply means I will take care to protect very personal information and/or information I don’t want to share.
Doing this quite actively we then hope that we can educate our children on how to correctly use social media for it’s beneficial purposes. This week a group conversation on Instagram was created and one of our children added to the group. What happened next disgusted me so much I had to take action by informing other parents this group existed. Talk of a very vulgar nature along with screenshots of other children that weren’t even in the group chat etc. It was bad, even worse when most of the children in the group were only 11 years old.
We’ve tended to trust our kids and base our decisions regarding social media usage on whether we felt they were mature enough. We have then always checked their accounts on a regular basis to make sure anything untoward could be noticed and nipped in the bud, ie: bullying etc. It’s using this regular checking method that this group chat came to light so I’m definitely sure our decision to limit their privacy was correct.
I’ve put the question out there in the Blended Parent Network Facebook group and a school parenting forum and the vast majority of parents do seem to take caution when it comes to social media and children online, that’s great. Another thing I did notice though was the amount of parents that didn’t seem to have a clue on how you use some social media sites/apps and that worried me. My view is that you need to make sure you’re educated as well as your child in this, sometimes vicious, online world. I wouldn’t be letting my kids use apps that I didn’t understand myself, it just increases the risks.
One parent said ‘it’s a big crazy ass virtual world out there that developing children shouldn’t be exposed to (when learning consequences to actions and where snap decisions made my immature minds leads to all sorts of exposure). The part about ‘immature minds leading to all sorts of exposure’ really hit me. Sometimes, when angered or provoked, it’s all to easy for some adults to take to Facebook and write a status about how much you hate someone or something, later regretting and in most cases deleting the post. Now put a young child in that position. That’s a scary thought.
I genuinely think that the current generation of parenting is the toughest yet. In terms of emotionally and psychologically. When I was a kid, only 15-20 years ago, if you were bullied for example, it would generally stop once you got home after school, from a physical point of view. (I’m in no way saying it wasn’t bad back then, bullying is always bad and should never happen) But, nowadays social media gives bullies the opportunity and means to continue the onslaught 24/7.
Not just bullying, popularity and peer pressure is also now an ongoing conveyor belt that never ends. Previously you could put on a face at school and be someone else if you needed to be. Then you could get home and do whatever made you comfortable, not what made you popular. That luxury has gone now too. Kids feel the need to constantly be in the loop, not missing out and always on trend. Snapchat filters, Instagram stories, a constant need to be connected and digitally liked! When do they get a rest from it?
Of course, the easiest answer is that we don’t let them have any social media, problem solved right? Not really. Two main reasons being that you don’t want your child to be the one always missing out and also social media is an amazing tool when used correctly.
Our girls are at secondary school now and a lot of their primary school friends don’t go to the same school. They need to keep in touch with them. Finding time to visit family is difficult so again, social media is vital for them to share what they’ve been up to with Aunties, Uncles and Grandparents.
So…. There is no easy answer and everyone’s situation is different. We’re searching for a balance that works for our family and keeps everyone safe from the very real dangers the online world present.
I’d love to know your thought’s, let me know… See you online @dadvworld