I posed this question on my Facebook page and most tended to agree that whilst there were other elements that all needed to contribute, ultimately the responsibility should lay with us, the parents.
Yes it is true that schools must play a role. They need to back up their anti-bullying polices with concrete processes to deal with situations when they arise. Parents need to feel confident that if something is brought to the attention of a school, then they have the means to handle it and come to a resolution that ultimately helps all involved. But punishing the bully and appeasing the victim does very little to solve the issue. Bringing a group of people to talk to our kids once a year about changing passwords and saying nice things online, also does little to allay their curiosity, their ‘selfie’ mindset and their often ‘act now, think later’ teen mentality.
Yes it is true we need to keep making tech sites and creators aware of the dangers their sites pose and demand better settings and safety measures. Many welcomed the changes to Ask.Fm that made anonymous users traceable and mades the reporting of bullies easier. But we also know that these measures alone do little to really teach our kids about how they are interacting online. More often than not, by the time the site comes to the attention of the parents, or the changes have been made, the kids have already moved on to the next online ‘hangout’.
Yes we need to keep hoping that governments will continue to legislate to keep inappropriate content away from the vulnerable eyes of our kids. I for one, would like hard core pornography something that is not accessible by default. Rather than have to try all manner of procedures to block it, I wish it were the other way around so that those that want it can get to it, but it is not automatically available when you turn on a screen. I may well be dreaming.
I am well aware therefore that the internet is a global phenomenon. It is not run by one government or one tech company. It is not easily legislated and policy’s are in no way created with the safety of our kids in mind. When 30% of all internet downloads are porn related, we know this not to be the case.
So, it looks like the onus is on us, the parents, to take on the role of keeping our kids safe. And here is why I believe this to be true:
I believe this to be true because no safety settings or blocks can ever guarantee our kids safety
I believe this to be true because kids know a lot of things about the technology and are often really smart at it. But they don’t have the emotional intellect and maturity to properly deal with the things they may see and do online.
I believe this to be true because as parents it is our role to do what we can to keep our kids safe. Bur we also need to do so in a way that builds their skills and their independence, knowing that we cannot possibly follow every update they make and keep an eye on every photo they post.
I believe this to be true because kids aren’t born knowing this stuff.
I believe this to be true because no one can give a child the guidance and the unconditional support that a parent can.
I believe this to be true because our kids are too precious to leave it to anyone else.
We need parents to learn what is out there so they have the knowledge to appropriately deal with challenges as they arise. We need parents to set time limits early to create good habits. We need parents to decide what sites and apps are suitable for their children based on their responsibility, development and maturity. We need parents to connect with their kids in real life so they know when things are not right. We need parents to encourage pursuits away from the screens. We need parents to be involved in communities, teams and our kids interests outside the home.
We need parents to take responsibility for their children’s safety online.
If you think the parents in your community could benefit from a greater understanding of what it means to parent children with technology and the online world, then please email me to organise a speaking event.