We've run into something this week and hubby has done his typical shrugging of shoulder and it's no big deal whilst Ive started over thinking... I need your advice!
The big lad has a phone. It is an old one from Papa. He is almost ten and regularly goes off to play at friends homes after school. (We all live close together.) Initially the mums had an app group and we would app each other but that didn't always work. I wanted to be able to contact my son and know exactly where he was so we gave him a phone for his safety. So far this set up has worked (as long as he remembers to take the phone) and we have been happy with it. He picks up when we ring and apps if he wants anything. All good, hurray for technology helping us to keep our son safe!
Other friends have phones too of course and there is an app group for his class. He shared with me a "strange" (his words) conversation via app. One girl had asked, "Why is he in the app group?" Thankfully another child had answered, "Why shouldn't he be in the group? He is in our class too." A couple of others had responded with, "Yeh".
It shocked me... It made me feel unsafe had we opened him up to bullying? Whilst I thought I was protecting my son by handing him technology have I actually exposed him to something far more dangerous. It made me feel uncomfortable!
A couple of nights later I checked big lads phone. Hubby told me off but I totally disagreed, arguing that; we need to be aware of what is happening, Cyber bullying is real (but feeling slightly stupid as I said it!)
Cyber Bullying is: willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. There were 7,296 counselling sessions with young people who talked to ChildLine about online bullying and safety last year.
That is a worrying statistic...
There wasn't anything to report! I was overthinking, over analysing again...But it kept going around and around my head...bringing that uncomfortable feeling back.
That same week, Little Man came home from school all excited because one of the boys had said he could join their clan... he is playing Clash Royale on the iPad a lot at the moment. He asked me to help him with finding his friends clan and help him join (they are 7!). We sent a request and a boy from his class accepted him but then another rejected him.
Why had this child rejected my son? Doesn't this child want him to take part? How dare he exclude my son? Is he being bullied? Do I speak with the parents/school? So many questions flew through my brain at a million miles an hour...
This happened whilst Little man was sitting next to me on the sofa in .our house... He wasn't upset, more confused. Hubby shrugged his shoulders (again) but I was left feeling really annoyed, worried and unsafe...
Later on he showed me the comments (you can chat with clan members) one boy had said, "That is Little Man." (he uses a gamer name) and another replied, "F***! You don't mean that!" I was shocked... Maybe he hadn't recognised his name but I still felt uncomfortable with the language. Did his parents know?
Technology means I am raising kids in a world very different to the one that I was brought up in. A world where children can play together without seeing each other...
But have children changed?
Kids fall out, kids disagree, they don't always get on, they say and do mean things but now they have a forum to do it on/through... It feels... dangerous...Do kids really consider the lasting impact their words can have and the wide audience it can reach?
I spoke with my brother about this (his kids are teenagers) he told me that teenagers are engaging on social media (his aren't yet) and there have been some incidents at their school of people sending naked pictures of themselves and pictures of private parts. Do these children think about the long term future? These pictures could crop up again and again.
I don't think the answer is to take technology away... do you?
What is the answer?
I will continue monitoring my kids phones, tablets etc and online playing for the foreseeable future but I will also continue to trust them to tell me if something happens. Like it or not my kids are growing up and in an ever changing world filled with technology. I need to trust that I have given them strong enough roots to grow...
Ironic really that the technology that we are using to communicate is forcing us to communicate more with our children. I want my boys to feel confident that they can tell me anything... We will be having another chat about staying safe online. Will you?
What would you do?