To be a responsible parent is not easy – that‘s quite clear. But mums and dads of our generation have an extra burden compared to their ancestors: the Internet.
No wonder: while parents remember their childhood without mobile phones, the Internet and social networks, their kids have been surrounded by modern technologies since their birth. And let’s face it; they often get by much easier than the parents.
Recently a study conducted with the help of AVG, formerly a Czech antivirus company, has revealed the fear of the parents who try to watch their kids online. In my opinion it’s a well meant, but rather naïve effort. Since the children are familiar with the online environment, I’m convinced that they are able to hide from you – if they want to.
It surprises me how often people don’t realize that we all have “our own” social networks. Your Facebook Newsfeed reveals a lot about you. Teenagers behave differently; they tend to click more on ads, play games more often and so on. But the worries that your kid will fail to recognize an ill-minded stranger on Facebook are usually exaggerated.
Facebook (in contrast to the earlier successful social networks) copies our existing relationships. We don’t use it to meet new people, but to stay in touch with old friends and relatives. So it’s most likely that you’ll find schoolmates and other real-life friends among your youngsters’ connections. They keep in touch when they don’t spend time together. It might be used as a dating site of sorts, but then again – teenagers have better chances to find out more about a stranger that approached them on Facebook than in a bar or at a party.
At the same time, to think that “becoming friends” with your son or daughter on Facebook is enough to make sure you know what they are doing is silly. I don’t have any research for this in my hands, but I’m quite sure it’s the kids who know very well, how to post their statuses, so that only some concrete people can see them (you can create the so-called lists and then post your photos from parties to your close friends, but not to your family members, for example). Not to mention the fact that quite a few young people have more than just one profile for many reasons.
Each generation has its own threats. We were supposed to end up as violent hooligans because of aggressive computer games, before that it was the TV to blame and so on. The Czech writer Karel Čapek wrote in the thirties about the grandpa caveman who grouched about the youth that didn’t care about the traditional flint tools and preferred bone tools.
I don’t want to say there are no threats. It’s good to educate first yourself and then those you are responsible for about the risks out there in the wild cyberspace. It’s not very clever to boast publicly about the expensive stuff you keep at home while adding “and we are going for holidays for the next two weeks”. It’s reasonable to explain to your teenager that no matter how deep is his or her love, sharing sexually sensitive photos with their significant other can be a significant mistake because when the young Romeo gets desperate, he might act in a desperate way.
But the most important thing to realize is different: when there is trust between the parents and their children, you don’t have to act like the Big Brother and spy on them. Try to recall your own memories – what and how often had you been hiding from your parents? Today we have an ultimate control weapon – the cell phone. Keep this in mind, do not overuse it and don’t panic too much.