How can we encourage teens to think carefully about what they share?
When thinking about the happy holiday season upon us, I do despair. Mostly because of not being able to share it with my beautiful boy Breck. But when I think from a work standpoint, it scares me to think of all the new devices that will be purchased in this month for children to possibly have intimate online contact with strangers, and maybe with one of the 750,000 paedophiles that NSPCC believes to lurk on our own UK internet land. I’m not trying to be a downer, who would want to listen to that?
But, I just hope to remind everyone that we all had ‘rights of passage’ growing up. It’s normal and something nice to look forward to. But some parents are not putting any restrictions on what their children are able to access and this cannot be good when looking at the reports recently released stating there are over 70,000 investigations per year into CSE (child sexual exploitation) online.
I encourage all parents to be aware of who and what their children are engaging with online, and what they are posting. My own teens show me regularly half-naked and naked photos of friends who just think it is a laugh or want to impress someone, and sometimes there are funny elements to what they post, but it worries me to think how it could go wrong in the future, with bullying, exploitation or just having to answer to someone why they posted this in the first place.
The younger ones under 13 should be granted the right to just be kids and not have to worry about how much they are liked or followed, this just encourages more adult exploration as well as risk-taking behaviour into an unknown world that they may not be prepared for. Stick with the PEGI ratings, just do it. And get the parents of your children’s friends onboard with laying some group ground rules, after all, it’s the parents who purchase the devices in the first place and pay the bills.
Enjoy the hols together, set the devices down for some traditional ‘face time’, and teach your children to Play Virtual/Live Real this and every holiday season.