Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Online dangers lurking March 22, 2013

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danger signDuring 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:

The technology invasion,

My 8 year old has a Facebook account

Fighting the technology tsunami

 

 

Ever present danger September 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mother of a Man-Child @ 5:00 pm
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tram tracker appThis week we were reminded about the potential for dangerous situations for our men-children.  Not surprisingly, as teenagers they are often out on weekends, generally hanging with a couple of friends, attending parties or gatherings, and travelling on public transport or by taxi if (their) funds permit, preferably in a group for safety.

We always like to know where they are going, who they will be out with, what time they are coming home, or if they are staying out for the night, etc.  Sometimes this frustrates the hell out of them, but as we explain, if something happens to you and you somehow lose your mobile phone, we really need to have some idea where to start looking for you or tracking you down.

Both of the men-children were out last weekend, having come back from kayaking camp (where they had a fabulous time), showered (I’m sure that felt good) and then headed straight back out the door.  When one of the boys eventually got up the next morning, he was fuming.  He told me about an incident outside a party where two older boys had confronted him and a mate.  They had pinned his mate against a wall, threatened him with a bottle (not broken I’m glad to say), and demanded money.  My son eventually offered them $20 and they took off, thankfully without stealing their mobile phones and any more money.

Over the next few days we had an interesting debate about how to handle a situation like this if it was ever repeated.  I actually think he did the right thing – stay with your friend, handover money (who cares) and stay safe.  I also asked if he knew who the boys were, or what school they attended, as I was more than happy to phone the said school and let them know there was some delightful behaviour going on.  What are the chances it’s not the first time they’ve bullied other boys?

We agreed personal threats to the offenders would get you nowhere, unless you wanted your head beaten in!  In truth, our son even baulked at the thought of us contacting the school, lest it be known he was the “dobber” and there were repercussions.  A discussion then ensued about the rights and wrongs of naming and shaming, so that the collective good defeats the bad seeds of society.  As a teenager, he really didn’t have the same global view of his parents, and frankly, didn’t seem to want to hear it.  Would it surprise you to know one of the boys had apparently been expelled from a very expensive private school?  No wonder!  So the matter was put to bed, there really wasn’t much we could do, but we do hope we gave our son food for thought.

Whilst the above events were unfolding, our other son was also out for the night, at a mates.  Since the men-children had been at camp all week, they were both under strict instructions to come home to sleep, and not stay out.  As is usual however, at 11pm the text messages started (no thought for slumbering parents of course).

“Mum, can I stay at xxx house please?  I’ve missed the last tram.”  “Bullshit.  You have not.  We agreed you would come home.”

He then calls me (most unusual in itself) to explain it’s a long walk to the tram, and that the timetable has changed due to school holidays (yeah sure) and that his Tram Tracker is showing no further trams.  Really I say, that’s frog shit, the tram timetable doesn’t change in school holidays, and they always run up until midnight.  And then I check my own Tram Tracker and see THREE trams coming to our suburb from his friend’s house in the next 50 minutes!!!!!

Suffice to say, I gave up arguing, told him I thought he should come home, but that I really didn’t care what he did, said I looked forward to the screen grab showing his faulty Tram Tracker, and by the way, thanks for waking me up, and would he like me to text and ring him at 6.30am when I got up for a run the next morning?  Of course not!!

Late next morning, up turns man-child #2 looking like he’s been beaten up by the same thugs that our other son encountered.  He’s got a massive bump and cut on his forehead, a cut under his eye some initial bruising, and another cut across his nose.  He can see the alarm on my face, and quickly tells me it’s not what it looks like.  Apparently he got up at his mate’s house in the morning, went to the bathroom, slipped on the wet floor and wacked his face on the vanity.  He’s lucky something isn’t broken.  He then tells me he wishes he came home after all (good) and has spent the morning icing his wounds and worrying how it will look tomorrow for his girlfriend.

Now for those who are thinking we just bought the oldest lie in the book, I have to admit the same thought crossed my mind.  However, having actually spoken to my son, who sounded completely sober the night before, I did believe his story.  Then again, I could shoot holes in it – an unusual call, a last-minute request to stay out, lies about tram timetables (do they think we came down in the last shower?).  Bottom line, he really had no need to lie about it.  Like his brother, I think he would tell us if something worse had happened.

So whilst the events of the weekend could have been far more fraught, it did bring home the ever-present threat of danger for our men-children when they are out at night.  You just have to read the paper and watch the news on any given day to see constant reminders of the randomness of violence on our streets.  And you just have to be a parent (like mine before me) to know the feeling when you lie in bed at night waiting to hear the squeak of the gate, or the sound of the front door opening, letting your children in to the warmth and safety of their home.  I can only hope this is the worst we will ever have to deal with in the lives of our men-children.

Of course, we have encountered the odd spot of trouble over the years:  An Arresting Story (caught shoplifting) and Drug & Alcohol Education (caught smoking dope)!