Sometimes I wish my kids had the chance to grow up in the world that I grew up, where there was no ‘online presence’ no social media stress and certainly no cyber bullying. When I grew up, I made mistakes, of course, but it wasn’t ‘out there’ for the entire world to see or comment on.
It’s so stressful being a parent in the 21st century. On top of all the usual parenting stuff, we have the added responsibility of making sure they don’t get hurt, stressed, misled or just constantly ground down by the non stop pressure of being social.
Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, if you’re not on there, you basically don’t have a social life, so the pressure is on us parents to be the bad guys when we need to, to step in and take away the social media. Even if it’s just for a night.
My teenager is constantly on her phone. She thinks it’s the worst thing in the world to confiscate her phone, and she is very much in the group where it’s all about an online persona. Which drives me insane because her real life persona is a million times more amazing.
Still, you only learn these things when you’re ready to learn them, I can’t make her realise something until she sees it for herself.
I can, however, keep them both as safe as possible. Especially when it comes to being online. Which is why VPNs can be useful. It’s not something I ever knew about as a teenager, but you can bet even my 9 year old knows what one is – is that a good thing? Who knows! Other ways of keeping them safe, while annoying them as much as possible are knowing all of their logins and passwords to every.single.account, tracking what sites they’re on, blocking certain sites and restricting access to others.
There are loads of ways you can keep an eye on them, but, at the end of the day, the best way is to talk to them. Explain why you have so many rules, what the dangers are and let them know they can always be completely honest with you. My youngest somehow found himself on a gaming site which allowed chat, which he knows he’s banned from. He got a message from someone, which wasn’t nasty or mean but it shook him up so much, he blurted it out to me at the table. He was worried he would get told off for being on the site, but he knew there were greater risks than a quick telling off. Thankfully.
The internet is a seriously powerful tool, there’s no point telling kids they can’t access it, because that’s how the world works these days, so we have to prepare them and show them how to use it safely, so they know, and we know, they’re safe.