During the week I was reminded about the ever-present threat that the online environment presents with young children. As you may know sister of a man-child once set up her own Facebook account, at the age of eight, without my permission – trust me it wasn’t around for long!
Earlier this week we received an alert notice from the school, which had been circulated by police, about online paedophiles. Some young girls had been using a social networking site, and had been encouraged to share inappropriate photos of themselves with an older male who had befriended them. The girls were the same age as my daughter and living in the area – quite frankly a terrifying thought, and far too close to home for my liking. The site if you are interested in ensuring your children are NOT using it is kik.com (KIK messenger) and the incident was reported because a mother wondered why her daughter was taking naked photos of herself.
As the notice advised, with the increasing availability of WIFI in homes and numerous devices children can use that include a camera, their access to the internet is easy and obviously needs to be monitored closely. Whilst you can block certain sites, you can’t block ones you don’t even know about!
My daughter had actually set up an Instagram account recently (photo sharing site), telling me about it after the fact. I checked whom she had befriended and her settings and said it was okay for the minute, although I would have preferred she didn’t have it. They were sharing photos of cute bunnies and cats, nothing abnormal, and nothing to worry about. Naturally, at any time I can access her iPod and see what messages are being sent between her and her friends, whether by text or Instagram etc.
However, after receiving the above message from the school, I explained to sister of a Man-child that unfortunately for now we were going to delete her account. It’s not that I don’t trust her, but seeing she had befriended some older siblings of her own friends, I was a bit concerned that in time she might be exposed to content I didn’t think was appropriate. As you know when you have a lot of friends on social networks, it’s not always easy to remember who the audience is watching your posts.
She understood (the kids were all aware about the recent police alert to the school), although I don’t think she was very happy about it. But so be it. As I explained, my job as a mother is to protect her, and sometimes I will make decisions that I think are right for her, even if she doesn’t like it. (Oh if only that still worked on her brothers!!)
We have a similar scenario regarding walking to school. At the age of nine she would love to walk the two blocks to school each morning. As much as we would love her to do it, we just can’t bring ourselves to allow it. I did check my own paranoia with a few friends at the time, who were all so quick to say “No”, that I thought I had been too liberal to even consider it for a minute. Whilst you don’t want to make your children worry, you also need them to understand they are vulnerable. From memory we allowed the men-children to walk to school at the age of 10, but as they were twins they walked together every day. As they say, safety in numbers.
Sorry for the serious tone of the post this week, but I think it’s good to share this sort of intel with other parents. What do you do to block access to the internet by your kids or to monitor their usage? Are you allowing them to use social network sites and at what age?
Of course technology and the online world has been a popular topic of mine. Click the links to read the posts: