Saturday, 23 November 2013
How do you protect your child from the internet?
Last night I went to the theatre to watch an interesting adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. It featured a very famous disabled actor, a lot of male and female nudity, and graphic scenes. Yes, it's safe to say the charming scene involving the courgette and the melon was pretty tame in comparison with the rest of it. Anyway, just as we were driving into town, my wife started talking about how it's sad that the world has become so centred around the internet, and imagine what it will be like in 2023, when our son will be 10 years old and getting cyber-bullied and god knows what else. I gently reminded her that this was date night, and please could we not think about our innocent baby having traumatic experiences in later life. Then we forgot about the subject and arrived at the theatre and the play was fantastic.
But today I am troubled. It's true, we don't know what the world will be like, 10 years from now. We know that technology is advancing at an alarming rate, and 7 in 10 people in the UK now own a smartphone. Toddlers can now operate tablet PCs, and so it's a fact that our children will be accessing the internet from a young age. I think we as parents need to remain vigilant and try to hinder its intrusion into our family lives and keep the magic of childhood alive, with fantastic ideas like Dinovember and this one. It's easier said than done though, as I'm typing on a laptop now with the TV on in the background and no doubt when I finish writing this I'll go on Twitter and other websites to publish the blog. So if I'm saying one thing and doing another, then it will make the internet a forbidden fruit for him when he's older.
The point I'm making is that I intend as a parent to give my children limited access to the internet, but there will come a point I'm sure, when peer pressure will set in from their friends as they're all on Facebook, or the next big social network, and I would feel like a draconian dad not to move with the times and give in to technology. Likewise, schools are becoming more tech savvy, and more companies are making and selling educational apps and programs to be accessed on the internet, which sort of forces your hand that you have no choice. I'd like to hope that when he's 10 years old he will have a good circle of friends to stick with, a nice school, and that he won't log on at night to discover thousands of abusive messages from classmates. But that is a very real threat now faced by school kids, cyber-bullying is widespread and causes suicides.
Before becoming a dad I thought I had it nailed. I knew that if he ever started smoking weed I'd have his number straight away and have a very firm little chat with him. I used to pull the wool over my parents' eyes, but this is one clued up ex-stoner dad, alert to all the signs and signals. But as for the internet, that's hidden, you can't see its bloodshot eyes or what goes on behind the closed doors, there's no thick smoke or Bob Marley music wafting out, it can leave no trace. I just hope that everything will be okay, and that we make the right decisions in bringing him up to protect him from harm. But the time will come when we don't have any control over it any more.
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