When it comes to our kids and their online activities it has to be said: Ignorance is NOT Bliss. People, we need to engage! Your kids are, so why aren’t you?
This article is for those who haven’t yet jumped on board the social media bandwagon, or those who can’t be bothered with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Whisper, ASK.fm, Tumblr or any of the other platforms our teenagers are into. If you’re reading this and that’s you then please come to the table.
Do some research and engage with your kids. Find out what they’re doing online, where they’re hanging out and what Apps they love. Do you know what’s being sent to them and who’s sending it?
Today’s conversations have so many dimensions and our kids are out there exposed and vulnerable. They need savvy parents who will explain the why behind the what of some of the things they engage with. In our home Snapchat is banned. No-one is on it. My eldest used to be but it became a joke when every conversation was punctuated with her need to take and send silly photos. I checked it out. It was fun and interesting but it fast became ridiculous.
What I learned: The number of naked selfies being shared was alarming (thankfully my eldest was not sending any such pictures!) I was shocked at how many people thought sending naked selfies to their entire contact list was a smart thing to do. I was amazed at the level of confidence these kids had. They really think that the world deserves to see their ‘bad, naked self’. Oh, to have that confidence bottled and sold. What’s worrying, and should be of great concern, is the fact that they are actually distributing pornography – and in many cases it’s underage pictures that are being shared.
How did I discover this? It’s simple. Engage with your kids, take their phones when they least want you to and have a look. Make it a condition that passwords are open and everyone knows them. Make sure you have access to everything from the outset. Read their messages, look at their pictures, read the comments that they and their friends write. Dig deep into the archives of the mobile device and find out what they are doing.
Does that sound like an invasion of privacy? Sure it does, but when it comes to our kids, privacy is earned. It’s something we teach throughout their lives. We help them to understand its importance, whether it’s in relation to their own body, their bedrooms, or their level of connectivity with others. Sadly, many parents have resorted to just paying the bill. If kids stay within their allotted amount for their devices then we are happy. If they go over, all hell breaks loose, yet we allow them this level of freedom and engagement that is beyond dangerous.
We lock our doors at night, we put them in car seats and make them wear seatbelts. We make sure they take swimming lessons and driving lessons and we don’t let them speed. All of this is in an effort to keep them safe. Yet when it comes to their activities online, we let them roam the world free, chatting to whomever they like, sending pictures, texts and who knows what else, creating their digital footprint without our input.
Please parents, understand this. Ignorance is NOT Bliss. Engage with your children, be in their world. Teach them.
Risk being the unpopular one because you care. Put boundaries in place and take technology away if you need to. Do whatever is required but for goodness sake don’t put your head in the sand and ignore what is happening. Here are some links that can/will help you: