So I have to be honest these last few weeks have been a bit of an eyeopener in the parenting department. Last week at school my eldest was given a talk regarding online safety and shown some videos to highlight the dangers of talking to strangers online. Following that an email was sent out to make parents aware that some of the children had set up an i-message group which the school did not deem as ‘age appropriate’. My initial reactions to both of these things was shock; are we really at this stage already? My eldest son Finley is only 9, he’s in year 5 of primary school; surely this is a topic for secondary school. And anyhow, seen as I don’t allow him to go on any form of social media or online gaming this really doesn’t apply to us??
So there I am sat up on my parenting pedestal and then I talk to that hubby of mine and he kicks that stool right out from under me (which is exactly what I needed and why he’s the father of my kids!!) No Finley isn’t on social media himself yet, but if some of his peers are then he is and will be exposed to it on some level. That level may simply be subjects being discussed in the playground at school, or it may be that he participates in social media round a friends house but it will happen. And by not acknowledging this and by not discussing it openly with him, we; as his parents aren’t equipping him to deal with the dangers and challenges that social media generates.
Equally we as parents need to be educated in understanding the negative effects of social media on our children. It is undoubtedly terrifying to contemplate the reality that a dangerous predator could contact a child online. Or similarly that social media may be used as a tool for bullying, yet there are other less high profile dangers of our children being online. A video by a British/American author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek explains this; I have copied the link below and the whole video is well worth a watch, however if you don’t have time just watch from 3:10 to 7:20.
It is in this section of the video that he discusses the effects of social media on our brains as releasing the chemical dopamine. He explains this is the same feel-good chemical released when you smoke, drink or gamble and it is highly addictive. We must be aware that this is what is happening in our children’s brains when they use social media. They become addicted to that feel-good high produced by the dopamine, they come to crave it and rely on social media for approval in themselves and their lives. At what age do our children have the emotional maturity to prevent themselves from being consumed by social media and its addictively self-gratifying nature? Aren’t we as parents responsible for setting boundaries and restrictions on our children’s use of social media? Should we be more conscious of our own relationship with social media, considering the continuous example we set for our children through our behaviours?
In all honesty I don’t want to deal with this because it’s bloody scary!! I don’t want to be entering the realms of attempting to keep my children safe online I want to stay in that early childhood bubble where my job is to protect them from monsters, cut knees and the ever dreaded lost teddy!! But hiding under my denial blanket constitutes being a pretty crap mum. So while my generation might pine for our own childhood of playing out in the park all weekend long the truth is our children are growing up in a society where social media is going to play a major role in their lives. I guess its a bit like riding a bike; some kids will get on it early, some may be late to the party but sooner or later they will all experience it. And when they do we as their parents need to make sure we have equip them with the correct protective tools.