I was attending a dinner recently when the subject of social media cropped up and ignited interest on who deemed what socially permissible for their children.
Some declared that it is not appropriate for children as young as twelve to own phones; one Mum said fifteen was the acceptable age, another explained that her daughter needs a phone out of necessity for various pickup times etc. I explained that my twelve year old DS was permitted a phone, but that we had stopped his access to Instagram and Snapchat.
This went on for some time until one mother bravely piped up ‘My son has a phone, an Instagram account, Snapchat and relative freedom, provided he keeps up the communication channel with his father and myself’.
Drum roll…one could feel the air clouding with invisible judgement as the rest of us silently tutted under our breath. Surely, we are all aware of the dangers of predators trawling the net?
Knowingly she smiled and advised us that she was a therapist by profession. Noting our uncertainty, she explained ‘My main clientele are boys who are addicted to porn!’
The room went deathly silent and I felt as though I had just been punched in the stomach.
WHAT? HOLY MOTHER OF JESUS! Rewind. Addicted???? Explain please!
Social media is here folks – it is part of our kids natural makeup, and it is up to us to guide and teach our children how to use it properly within the recommended guidelines, just like teaching them to speak, use a spoon and say thank you. We all need to educate ourselves about ‘online’ – both the positives and the negatives.
Therapist Lady explained to us that Facebook has about 7.5 million users under the age of thirteen years. We are all living the digital dream and this means we can’t really limit what our kids will see on the internet. But! But! How long does it take for a child to become addicted we all asked urgently? It depends was the answer…on the child. What they believe is acceptable for them. Oh.
A friend’s seven year old recently typed ‘willy’ into Google and was blasted with offensive images. Another’s son was playing a game of Minecraft on his iPad when an image appeared out of nowhere. To add to our horror, another mother mentioned how a boy in her son’s class (2nd Year) regularly hides his phone behind a copy book looking all studious and angelic, whilst secretly watching X-Rated movies on-line. Another stated how she had heard of a pack of boys regularly going into the school toilets at lunch to watch indecent movies.
We need to make sure that our kids can say ‘ No thanks, that’s not my thing!’
This is why we need to make sure we are straight talking with our kids, keeping an open dialogue and encouraging them to talk openly and straightforwardly about the dangers online without frightening them, but giving them the space to figure it out. BUT we also need to be able to manage it and reign it in when required. The internet is amazing, it is one of the best educational tools out there, but it clearly has it’s threats including addiction, mental health issues etc. (A topic for another day.)
This, she clarified, was why her son was permitted to have the various Apps – not because she was a highly generous mother but so he could learn to make the right decisions for himself.
It is also necessary that we raise our children about having healthy body images and to understand what is natural and what isn’t. As one other mother said ‘What is acting and what isn’t!’
My children recently returned home after spending the weekend with their Granny and had numerous vital facts about flowers, bees, how to make a pavlova and Rome.
‘Mummy did you know that very big women were considered very beautiful in Rome in the old days?’ asked my eldest.
Before I could answer, my youngest responded ‘Yup they had big bums and big tums!’ he giggled, clearly delighted with himself.
‘That is because you need big hips to have babies!’ declared my middle child.
‘The most beautiful woman was called…’ and they all chirped in unison ‘Venus’.