Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Parenting or Spying?

The online world and social media in particular are not the safest place to leave your kid alone. Of course parents are worried how to protect their children from the dangers entrapping them.

Here are some facts:
  • Social media is addictive
  • The majority of children are in fact members of Facebook long before the age of 13 - in Spain and Italy at 10, in the UK and US - at 11, according to a recent study by AGV (online security company).
  • Children are most often accessing sites through handheld devices such as Android phones, as till now there has been no parental supervision option for those.
  • 80% of teenagers filter their information so parents don’t see it, according to a study by Truste (online privacy solutions provider).
  • 45% of parents create false profiles on Facebook and other social sites for the sole purpose of learning more about their kids (Winnipeg Free Press).
These examples alone are enough to give us an idea about the magnitude of the problem. Kids, especially teenagers, can be very secretive and parents try to learn more about them with all possible means, including spying. But is this the answer? Some call it monitoring, others - concern, yet others - parenting, but snooping behind the kids’ backs really is spying. As a mother I find this diminishing, disrespectful, humiliating and worst of all, I see it as betrayal of trust - the most important pillar in the foundation of parent-child relationship.

Is it not more honourable to just gradually build a good relationship with your child based on understanding, respect and openness?

Instead of spying, try to:
  • Not judge - love your kids, express your opinion, give advice, but do not judge them. We must accept people for who and what they are, our own kids above all.
  • Not impose your power and authority - if your child sees you as a dictator, they will not trust you, they will fear you, and fear is a bad adviser.
  • Forgive - we all make mistakes; what is important is to learn from them. Forgiving your kid and yourself makes this possible.
  • Tune into your kid - know them, listen to what they say, talk to them, literally about anything and everything - the more open you are, the more transparent your actions are, the more your kid will trust you and open to you.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open at all times - this will help you spot and deal with issues before they become a problem.
Do you remember when was the last time you really looked into the eyes of your child and actually registered that incredible innocent, naïve, loving and ever so trusting look? A child is like a blank canvas and we, the parents, draw the main lines and shapes, we apply the strongest colours. We must never forget this precious look. To me parenting builds strong relationship, spying destroys it.

What is your choice?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Electronic Games in the Kids’ World

In today's world the meaning of safety has drastically changed. When I was growing up our parents' concern about our safety didn't actually go much further than the inevitable scratches and bruises and the standard warning to always carefully look left and right before you cross the street. We'd play in backyards, schoolyards and often on the street unattended; available reading materials and games would be carefully screened - it was all part of our childhood.
Nowadays kids have different childhood, especially kids living in the cities. They spend a lot more time at home, have fewer real friends, enjoy tons of electronic gadgets and video games. With the advancement of information technology and the increasing amount of information, which is like a powerful tsunami, kids are exposed to a lot more and different kinds of dangers, such as access to inappropriate information, developing bad habits, lack of physical activity, bullying. They can quite easily become targets and be used for not so desirable purposes; unknowingly they can provide information which can be used against them and their families. The parenting challenges are constantly increasing.

My older grandson is five and, like all kids his age, he is comfortable using a laptop, a tablet, a cell phone. Needless to say, he loves electronic games and can spend hours playing, especially "fighting" games. Maybe I am over-reacting, but I worry that little kids have easy access to games with so much weapons and blood in which the main purpose is always the same - Kill the Bad Guy! I agree there is a little warrior in every boy, and kids’ instincts of self-preservation and protection have to be nurtured, but we must also teach them from early age what is good and what is bad, what is fair and unfair, what is right and what is wrong. I dare say I evolve as life evolves and yet I have a problem accepting this violence. How do you explain to a little boy why he has to kill in order to win and be named Good Guy? I also worry that by categorizing the characters as Good or Bad based on power, quite often money, and violence we don’t instill values, we make kids judgmental instead.

Remember the old-fashioned fairy tales in which the Hero or the Prince fights? Usually he is strong, brave, smart and when he kills - mind you a dragon, a beast or a witch, it is in self-defense or to protect the innocent girl or the beautiful Princess. Try comparing those to today’s “macho” games; there is even a game about an angry grandmother who walks around with a big ax …sure she cleans the neighbourhood from crime, but a Granny with an ax? Uuhhrr! 

I have to admit this is a whole new reality to me and I have not figured out how to deal with it. The fact that I am just the grandmother doesn’t bring much relief to my conscious.  Forbidding never works, so for now I say that I don't like fighting games, weapons and killings, and there are so many other ways to be a hero, but I know that very soon I will have to come up with a better explanation. We have our reasons and our logic, but so do our kids, don’t they?

Does this issue bother other parents or grandparents? How do you deal with it?
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