Hey parents & carers, how would you like to come and sit in school hall on a wet Wednesday evening and have some stranger scaring the heck out of you by convincing you the internet is full of weirdos, bullies and paedophiles?
No doubt you will come home from said session and remove anything that needs to be plugged in or has a charger and replace with slate and chalk, consider a move to the most remote part of the UK and insist on playing ‘old maid’, ‘snap’ and ‘go fish’ as they are a much safer alternative than Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat..
Actually the internet is a really amazing space, it allows creativity, problem solving, education and fun to collide in a way that is producing some amazingly creative solutions to age old problems. Our kids are smashing boundaries, thinking outside of the box and exploring new technologies in ways we haven’t even considered – it really is ‘just wow!’
As parents we need to be aware of what our children are doing online, we need to engage and we need to support and give guidance. Our kids may know how to use that tablet or phone without looking through a manual, but they don’t instinctively know how to stay safe – we need to teach and guide the same way we would if they needed to cross the road or learn to swim.
We wouldn’t just say ‘make your way across that busy dual carriageway – be careful that you don’t get run over’… We would provide rules, boundaries, advice and bit by bit we would allow them the freedom to cross that road by themselves (even though we may be guilty of hiding round the corner and taking a cheeky sneak peek to make sure they are following the rules we set!)
Parenting online is no different to parenting offline, the same messages apply. We shouldn’t be scared by it and we shouldn’t be advised around what is safe by our children because we think they know or understand online risk better than we do.
So, come on parents – we have got this, we can do it… start those conversations today, show an interest, set some realistic boundaries, perhaps around usage, screen free time before bed or which apps are ok to use, but most importantly tell your kids that if something happens online that scares, worries or upsets them, you are a safe place to fall, you will catch them and you will help them…..and if they can’t tell you, they need to know that they can always tell Childline….