It’s 6:00 PM. Do you know where your children are?
“Sure I do. They’re sitting next to me on the couch”. Or “they’re in their rooms”. You know exactly where they are. Physically. But do you know where they are on the internet? With the ubiquity of smart phones and internet access, your kids are or can be connected to the incomprehensible vastness of the internet every moment. How aware are you of where they go on their cyberspace journeys? How many people are they connecting with, whom you don’t personally know? How are they being shapen and influenced, and by whom?
Your children can be accessing forbidden material or consorting with forbidden people while sitting inches away from you in your living room. You don’t think so because you can’t see the screen and they aren’t behaving strangely. So everything is just fine. They can be sitting next to you while exploring another planet, one you didn’t even know existed. With dangers you have no knowledge of. Their minds are changing and their values are being altered. While sitting next to you on the couch.
It’s now 11:00 PM. Do you know where your children are? “Sure I do. They’re in bed”. What are they doing and where are they going while you’re in your bed and they are behind the closed door in the privacy of their bedroom? Surely, I mean surely, you don’t let them surf the internet privately, while you are sleeping do you? Please tell me no.
Do you know exactly and precisely what their online activities are? Do you know more, or at least as much about their smart phones as they do? Such as how to view and delete history? How to control content and how those controls can be circumvented? Do you have all of their passwords? Are your certain you aren’t missing anything? Do you understand what’s at stake?
Do you know how “safe” the sites are that they frequent? I was introduced to Instagram when I was fortunate enough to interrupt a collusive effort to get one of my kids set up on it and when I got my hands on the device, just a few swipes with my thumb revealed some very inappropriate material. VERY inappropriate (this was in a public venue by the way, with an old smart phone which we believed was unusable due to the number being switched a new phone, but was able to access the internet via wifi).
A little bit of further research revealed that unlike Facebook which tries to censor adult content, pornographic content flourishes on Instagram and no attempt is made to discourage it. Why would we allow our children access to a website with direct portals to pornography? “I have control of it. My kid can’t get into that stuff”. Are we fooling ourselves? It’s hard to embrace fire without getting singed. Is it so important that our kids have a “social network” presence?
What do you know about Instagram? How about Snapchat? Are you certain you are being thorough in your oversight if you kids’ online activities? Are you absolutely certain?
My 13 year old recently told me he wanted a smart phone. I asked why. He told me “so I can have a social life” (what was unsaid was that everyone else has one too). He goes to school five days a week. He goes to church four times a week. For centuries, that was a social life. Who decided for us that this is no longer enough? And has the decision to redefine what a “social life” is helped our kids?
I didn’t let my older kids get phones until they were working or driving. They just didn’t need them any earlier. And it was not for “having a social life” or “connecting with friends”; it was so we could connect with them! And even then, sometimes we just let them take our (non-smart) phones out or to work so they could call if they needed. And every night, they surrendered their phones before going to bed. No phone calls, internet use, or texting after hours or in private. Draconian? Maybe. But don’t take my word for it, ask them. Ask my grown kids if they resent it.
Do you know each and every social media account your kids have? “I’m friends with them on Facebook so I know who their friends are and I see what they post”. Do they have a Facebook profile you don’t know about? “Can they do that?” Sure they can. They just need a different email address. So do they have an email addy you don’t know about? Find out. And dig beyond asking. Trust, but verify. Suspicion is not unfair; it is the duty of a wise parent. Be a wise parent. The earth shifts under your feet when you realize what you thought was true really isn’t, and the serpent is in your home. It happens all the time.
Do you have filters and trackers on all of their devices? Those things can be circumvented. “My kid doesn’t know how to do that”. Perhaps. But they have a friend who does. Guaranteed. “My kids wouldn’t do that”. Uh huh. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child. But not my child”. Trust, but verify. Be a wise parent. Not just for your kids sake, but for mine too.
We ignore warnings such as these at our own peril.
It’s midnight. Do you know where your children are?
One thought on “Where are the Kids?”
Every parent should read this. I wish I had been more diligent about my kids’ internet activities.