Where is your child?
One in a series of conversations with Doug Jenner.
Do you know where your child is?
When our children are physically in the house with us – upstairs studying, reading or playing games for instance, it may seem silly to suggest that we don’t know where they are. But this is actually a very important question. Although our children are the house with us, where are they in their heads? Do we actually know?
Who are they connecting with? What are the secret conversations? It’s never been easier for predatory people to insinuate themselves into the lives of others and we must, for the sake of the ones we love, be aware of the dangers here.
Appreciate the potential dangers, as well as the benefits
The digital revolution has brought many benefits and most of us are very well aware of these. The trouble is, we’re more aware of these than we are of the pitfalls or dangers associated the digital world. Texting, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and so on are fast, effective ways to stay in touch, but we do need, for the sake of our children, to take a look below the surface. Snap Maps, for example, the most recent addition to Snapchat, has been the subject of some controversy since it was launched. And quite rightly in my opinion.
This upgrade allows users to track their contacts in real time, wherever they may be. Through the use of emojis, the app also lets contacts see more about what the user is doing – whether they’re in a car, for example. This might, at first, seem like a good idea because it lets parents know where their children are at any point in time, but it can also open them up to stalkers – and put them at risk. The user’s movements, anywhere in the world, can be seen – unless they protect themselves by going into ‘ghost’ mode. But even with ‘ghost mode’ on, how can we be sure it is secure?
These apps may seem innocuous and safe. It’s the work of a moment to put them on our phones, but all of us, parents and children, must see and understand the whole picture and take the dangers fully into account before we engage with them.
We must be truly ‘present’ in our conversations
When you’re out and about with your child, you can see who speaks to them, and who approaches them and so on. But mobile phones don’t give us the opportunity to see and hear how our children are interacting with others. So how do we keep our children safe and minimise risks for our children? The answer, once again, is about talking. We should be with our child, to talk, share and learn from one another in genuine, three-dimensional relationships.
Talking is as important as it has ever been, but these days we are encouraged to be a bit lazy. We are no longer obliged to carry things with us, like a book or a notepad and pen, but the sheer ease of things nowadays should not make us blind to the implications of digital communication. Casual comments or remarks often have a bigger impact than we realise, and we should make our children aware that there’s no such thing as a ‘throw away line’ any more, in the sense that what you say can remain accessible long into the future.
Use your phone to converse
Digital conversations can be unsatisfactory in so many ways. The absence of non-verbal cues in texts and emails leads to misapprehensions and misunderstandings in nuance, making it much harder to bring a conversation to a satisfactory conclusion.
My broad conclusion from all of this is simple: take a look at your phone and remember that it has a speaker and a microphone – in other words, it is designed for real conversations!
Best wishes Diana
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