Most children now have mobile phones and many have iPads, tablets or laptops. Consequently, they all have access to social media and the internet.
I am increasingly worried, and I’m sure you are too, that our children are coming into contact with graphic and inappropriate content. This material may then be shared between the children on WhatsApp groups etc.
At school we continue to emphasise internet safety, internet etiquette and children being able to self-police their conversations.
However, this is not the sole responsibility of schools. Internet safety and social media etiquette should be a continuing conversation parents are having with their children.
Just as we ensure our children wear a seatbelt in the car, parents must ensure their children can use a device safely and appropriately. Remember they are a just one click away from inappropriate content and/or individuals who have a malevolent intent.
I would therefore contend that all parents should ensure they know what is on their child’s phone, who they are speaking to, what apps they are accessing , who they are gaming with and what they are searching/watching/downloading and sharing.
Parental locks should be placed on devices and phones and iPads should be removed at bedtimes. Children as young as 9 and 10 are sending and receiving messages through the night. This is simply harmful but relatively easy to fix!
My advice may chime with the ‘rights-based’ philosophy of the day; so-be-it! Children’s safety and emotional well-being is far too important, for parents not to monitor their mobile devices!
Think of it; your child has a computer chip in their pocket/hand that is more powerful than the most powerful computers of the 1990’s etc. , but they lack the emotional maturity to handle this level of access and accessibility.
This is a pastoral conversation that needs to be had; not solely based upon prohibitions or restrictions, but about learning responsibility, gaining trust and mutual respect.
Always keep the channels of conversation open with your children. Be careful not to shut them down. Children clam up when they think that their question concerns something inappropriate or when they feel that their actions may disappoint you. Yes, children need to know right and wrong, but they need to understand that whatever mistakes they make, they can always come to you and that together you can work through any difficulties that may arise.
Our children need to know that it’s okay to make mistakes and that learning from their mistakes can help them become better human beings.
I know I am preaching to the converted but this is an area about which we can never become complacent or let our guard down.