Last night a few Irish knitters began talking about protecting their kids electronically. Over the last few weeks/months there have been a few high profile cases in Ireland of young girls committing suicide and directly attributing it to cyber bullying. While the discussion was going on via twitter I added a few words but realized that what I wanted to say really couldn’t easily be condensed into a 140-word tweet.
As parents we all want to protect our children. That goes without saying. However hand in hand with that is our responsibility to create complete adults that can deal with life in all its forms. We begin with them unable even to tell that a hot fire will burn them but by the time they reach 18 and leave home for college it is hoped that they can tell right from wrong, know how to defend themselves (physically and emotionally) and know when to ask for help. Not all of these lessons are easy ones and I think it is often our natural parenting instinct to protect them from everything. However part of our job is handing over control, and give them the self-confidence and judgement to cope with nasty situations.
If we know we have to gradually hand control over to our children, how can we do that so both parent and children can cope? I think personally it has to start with communication. To me this is really the key to everything. If you talk things through with your children and allow them to come to you with ANYTHING with the agreement that you won’t judge it goes a long way. With time and patience even children that are slow to open will let you know what is going on with them. Silence breeds fear and stress. It’s not always easy; teenagers aren’t fond of opening up. It takes a tough skin and perseverance but it is very, very important.
All this came about when talking about control over phones and spywear/parental control on their computers. While for younger children who don’t yet have the judgement this is obviously very valid but where do you draw the line? If they have had complete control taken away from them until 18 and go to college have you really prepared them for the world? With your help they need to learn that their number shouldn’t be given to everyone (or email!), that certain websites are just unpleasant to view (even if they’re allowed) and if they come across a situation that feels out of control they need to learn to walk away and find someone to talk to be it parent or friend. Teach them to surround themselves with friends that care and know that their parents will listen.