When i was young, my mother used to tell me: « Son, don’t forget, you do not talk to strangers, especially if they want to give you candy! » as i was leaving to go to the park with my friends. I must have been about 10 or 12 years old at the time. Anyway, I was old enough to leave the house on my own.
I’m from the Block Parent era. I’m sure you recognize this visual that was displayed in the bay windows of the houses in the neighborhood. This visual helped children know where to go « for help » as needed. Obviously, it was a way to show « the bad guys » that the adults in the neighborhood stood together, they were protecting their children.
Leaving the house
I’m a parent myself now, and I sometimes hear myself telling my children the same words my mother used to tell me. I want them to be cautious. I want them to know I love them. But it is also because a parent needs to feel that he has done everything in his power to protect his children, especially if they leave the house. But we can’t control everything. At some point, our children leave the house. They’re either going to the park with friends or going for a bike ride. I guess what I mean is that at some point, as parents, we realize we can’t protect our children all the time. We have to let them go. And that can be a little stressful.
It’s one thing to teach your kids to be cautious when they leave the house, but I often ask myself how we can protect our children from the « bad guys » when they go online. Let’s face it, our children “leave the house” at a much younger age by going online. We don’t always realize it. I’m thinking, when it comes to the internet, “ leaving the house” is no longer a question of being old enough.
Subtle transition online
The transition to the Internet is very subtle and we don’t see it coming. In my experience, it goes roughly as follows. We buy a tablet for the family and stimulate our child with games, apps on iPad etc. To stimulate our child. For his development. A la Baby Einstein. Eventually, we pay for games, online games, we do some research, online, with our child to find other games, to show him pictures of his favorite superhero, to watch videos on YouTube… No problem, right? And we are always by his side. At some point, we are in the room with our child as he plays with the tablet. But how do you know when he “leaves the house”, when he goes online? The problem here is not my child. It is the fact the he is out there.
In a recent post, I talked about digital citizenship and online safety. There are no Block Parent signs online, on computer screens. And our children use their words to search, and land on various sites, unwittingly.
The enticing online world
My kids are now 11 and 13 and when we have family reunions, this picture sums it up. Who is « out of the house » in this picture? At their age, social media a major reason why our children go online. Not to mention the online games communities, online shopping and video games. As a parent, aside from telling them to be careful, to behave, to not install this or that game, how can we be sure that we have done everything in our power to protect our children in the virtual world? This might sound scary, I know. And I am totally convinced that being connected is the way to go, the way of our children’s future. To me, education is the key.
When our children are young, we buy a car seat to make sure they are safe in the car. We buy them a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads before the go riding a bike …
When our child goes online, what do we do? What is our strategy as a parent? What is our online version of « Son, don’t forget, you do not talk to strangers, especially if they want to give you candy! « ?
I think it’s a question we have to ask ourselves.
In my opinion, digital literacy and critical thinking need to be tought. The challenge is that these are skills to be developed in all of us, including our children. Not as simple as buying elbow pads
So how do we empower our kids in the online world? It is not enough to be « old enough » anymore.
I would love to have your thoughts on this.