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Should we be afraid of parenting in a digital world?

In my work helping parents navigate the digital world, I am often known to tread this space with an air of relative positivity. To embrace and empower rather than rely on fear mongering and scare tactics. I believe that by educating and giving perspective and understanding, we can help develop that empowerment. No one needs to feel overwhelmed and overburdened with all we have to do as parents today.

Because I don’t want parents to be afraid of bringing up their kids. I want them to enjoy and embrace and connect on a level where their kids are at. Because if a parent is fearful, overwhelmed, anxious and feeling powerless, you can guarantee some of those elements will rub off onto the shoulders of the kids who are living those messages every day. We don’t need our kids to be fearful, overwhelmed, anxious and feeling powerless.
So by looking at things through our child’s eyes we are able to come to a place that helps us all to feel more confident about the choices we make regarding screen time and the online world.

Because the parents I am often preaching to are usually going to be getting it pretty right. They are after all reading my blog, following my facebook page, or turning up to the digital parenting session put on by their child’s school or some other organisation. So they are already pretty invested in their kids lives. Sure sometimes they are super worried and just want to be put at ease. Sometimes they feel completely clueless and are thirsty for any information to help gain back some authority. Some parents even like to have the living daylights scared out of them to feel like they can justify their strategies. Often times they already have a pretty good grip on the technology available to their kids and a pretty good understanding of how their kids spend their time. They just want some more knowledge to have better conversations, some tips to keep it all under control and some strategies to ensure the journey ahead remains relatively pain free.

So if you are taking the time to find out what your kids like to do online. If you are playing the game with them to see what all the fuss is about or at least taking the time to read a review. If you are keeping an eye on how your individual child is coping with the effects of technology or the social and emotional fallout they might be experiencing.
If you have some boundaries you have decided on together that for the most part are adhered to. If you are reading this blog post right now. You know what? Your kids are probably going to do just fine. They will make mistakes, but you will also know those little mistakes are OK, they will learn from those, but hopefully they won’t be catastrophic. Yes, there will still be things that scare us….but then again, this is just part and parcel of being a parent.

But then I am reminded of those parents who, yes, may well have cause to be afraid. Not because I want them to live in a world of fear, but because of the stuff we know about the online world.

Because when I speak to the little boy in grade 2 who is playing Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, by himself, for many hours ….then yes those parents may have cause to be afraid.
When all those hands go up as little 9 year olds who are on Snapchat , Instagram and the like, without having anyone teach them how to do that safely ….then yes those parents may have cause to be afraid.
When the kids can’t tell me why they shouldn’t just assume Justin Bieber is who he says he is just because of a profile pic likeness…..then yes, those parents have cause to be afraid.
When school Principals, on an almost daily basis, tell me that there has been cyberbullying going on via a group chat, and the screenshots say its happening at 11pm at night for these primary school aged kids….then yes, those parents may have cause to be afraid.
When parents think that the school filter still works at home and don’t realise the amount of porn being surfed on their child’s iPads at all hours of day and night …..then yes those parents have cause to be afraid.
When young children search self harming and suicidal ideation sites and then continue to be fed more and more of that similar content because their data deems that’s what they want to see….then yes, those parents have cause to be afraid.
So Yes. These are just some of the circumstances we should be afraid of….or at least be willing to inject some teaching and guidance. And despite me witnessing these behaviours with kids during the day and urging them to get their parents to come to the parent session at night…..these parents are rarely the ones to turn up.

So I will continue to teach from a place that offers a balanced view of the role technology will play in your kids lives. I will also alert you to the things we should be aware of and hope that the information filters through to some of those families who may not be so aware of all the possible pitfalls and possibilities, their kids may well be encountering, in this relatively new world.

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