Both of the older children now have their own phones. Cameron has had one for a while now and Kiara got mine when I did my upgrade recently.
Kiara is still at the games stage and has three of her school friends on Whatsapp but Cameron has a lot of group whatsapps going, he is active on Facebook and Instagram – so basically he already has an online footprint!
A few weeks ago his phone was at home and I checked through his messages and checked his friends Instagram profiles. I regularly check his emails, both their Facebook privacy settings as well as randomly google their names to see what comes up.
When I tell people I checked his phone I am met with mixed reactions – some agree while others feel like I am invading his privacy. Maybe I am but until he is 18 and is able to adequately understand the consequences of his actions, I will keep invading his privacy!
He is thirteen years old! He may be a mature 13 year old, he may make smart choices a lot of the time but he is still only thirteen years old! He doesn’t have the life experience, the emotional maturity or the street smarts yet to fully understand what it means to be online. He has shared meme’s because he has found them funny on a 13 year old level but hasn’t seen the real meaning behind them. The same applies to Kiara. She is ridiculously naive about the workings of the world. I have to constantly remind her not to engage with people she doesn’t know. I am more vigilant about checking her messages because of this.
They are my responsibility. Until they are legally adults, all of my children are still my responsibility. I also have to deal with the consequences of what they share online. If they are sharing inappropriate content or liking inappropriate or concerning pages – it is my responsibility to be on top of that and deal with it appropriately. I can not distance myself from my children but I can allow them to form their own opinions and interests as long as they do so respectfully.
I can’t parent with blinkers on. I think the biggest mistake parents can make is to parent with blinkers on. You can’t give your child a phone, unlimited access to the world wide web and then walk away. It doesn’t matter how “good” your child is, you simple can not afford to do that in today’s world. I do not ever want to be the parent who stands over their hurt child saying “I had no clue they were being bullied or were depressed or were starving themselves.” Children share with their friends more openly than they do with their parents, you have to be on top of what is going on.
I don’t check everything they do everyday and I don’t read in depth the conversations they have but I do check. I make sure I know what the apps do that they download. I make sure the content they are sharing is appropriate.
I will not apologise for it, I will not stop doing it. There is a big scary world out there made scarier by the internet and smart phones, I can’t stop my children from being a part of that, I don’t want to but while they are my responsibility I will make sure I keep as much control as I can.
It is something I feel very strongly about. If you have a child with a smart phone you need be on top of what they are doing, the message they are sending to the world. I strongly believe you are doing your child a disservice if you don’t.