Tuesday 3 June 2014

NetParanoia.com - fear of the net and being a parent

So you have kids. Do you let them play in the playground at school? Do they get hurt there? Fall over? Fall out with their mates? Get teased? Possibly bullied?
Being at school and playing in the playground and learning how to deal with all that that entails is part of growing up and we wouldn't want to stop that - would we?
But are we as free and easy about it on the net?
Judging by the headlines the net is a far scarier, and more deadly place, for kids to be than in the school playground, than at home...
But statistically speaking children are more likely to be harmed at home and by their parents on a physical, emotional and mental basis than they are ever likely to be anywhere else - the net included! These were the points raised at a brilliant lecture I went to last night: NetParanoia.com The Great Internet Paranoia Swindle with Euan Semple: an internet guru you could say.
He was not advocating that parents should negate their responsibilities and that everything and everyone on the net was a benign force with only the best intentions at heart; but what he was saying was that we, as parents, should be learning about the internet and using it ourselves the better to understand the opportunities it can give, they way it works so we can understand the threats, and how we can all benefit, not just as families but as a community.
Just because our children can turn on a smart phone and switch on a computer, without having to look at a manual, does not mean they are experts at working the web or indeed how to behave online. That  would be like saying that just because they can walk and talk means they know how to behave full stop - they, like all of us, have to learn.
The talk, and discussion after, jumped about a bit covering topics such as how freely should I let my children play on the internet to how do I deal with horrific and indeed sexual images on the net? How do I help my children with  on-line bullying? And what about the glare from computers? How do I deal with a child who keeps playing with computers way into the night...
The simple answer was this: be a parent and do what you always do.
If you don't want them playing the computer way into the night don't have the computer in the bedroom; if you are worried about your kids never going outside; tell them to go outside. On-line bullying is the same as bullying full stop and deal with it as you would if it was happening in the playground.
Dealing with  horrific and sexual images on the net is just the same as if  you came across them in a magazine or newspaper. Some will say they are more accessible on-line but  take a look around you  and you will probably find that  the local news on the radio is just as graphic. My kids certainly know all about Operation Yew Tree and what happened to the two girls who were hung from a tree in Pakistan as it was on the radio news on their way to school.
Most of the time they tune out: "News is boring!" Sometimes I am put on the spot and I have to explain the best I can.
We should not be fearful of the internet or indeed fearful for our children - it is an amazing place where we can learn and share and just because we are told: "Muuum! You are SO old!" does not mean that we should not learn and share too.
The use of the internet has freed me to earn money as a journalist from home; I have connected with a community that has stopped me going barking mad, I have met people  on-line who are amazing, kind, collaborative, witty, wise and I have learnt so much!
Long may it continue for me and my family!

Go on you know you want to...


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