It’s tough being a parent; we all want the best for our kids, and with constant pressure from others and society, adolescent years are hard to navigate. One of the most challenging parts of this generation is handling devices, gaming, and the Internet. When we were kids, many of us played outside or with friends. I was taught about “stranger danger” and the trouble that lurks outside of a home.
Nowadays, the most critical dangers are the ones that we can’t see; the ones that exist right in our child’s bedroom.
I was talking to a young lady the other day. She describes herself as an “ideal girl.” She loves green tea and is bubbly and fun. She is thoughtful, respectful, has a great relationship with her mom, an artist, and loves to read and write. For the last two years, she wasn’t allowed to go out. On the surface, she seemed very sheltered and happy. But just the other day, in her own words, she revealed to me that she has a “double life.” She is the “ideal girl” but also is addicted to all types of porn. She has lived this double life for a few years. So although she wasn’t allowed to go out with friends, she watched porn daily in her bedroom, all without her mom’s knowledge. Her mom would be so heartbroken if she knew! In my experience talking with parents, parents don’t often believe the situation and imagine there has been a misunderstanding.
There are so many stories like this. Parents, we must protect our children and understand that the dangers don’t only exist outside of the house but within the same four walls. We can keep communication open and have great relationships, yet, never in our wildest dreams imagine that our children are crossing boundaries.
I’ve never yet met a parent who’s discovered these rabbit holes and who has said, “I wish I would have given my child more privacy,” or “I wish I would have trusted my daughter more.” I have heard countless parents tell me, “I shouldn’t have given my child a phone at that age” or “I never realised…” Most of us trust our kids. It’s not our kid’s fault, it’s this world, apps and algorithms.
What can we do?
Parents, we can educate ourselves and be one step ahead. First steps first, do you know that you can adjust parental settings on a router or a phone? You can limit internet content and with a press of a button restrict gambling, porn, and other sites. Many routers even have an app. For instance, an ASUS router or a DECO mesh has an app that allows you to put time limits on internet use, block pornography and gambling sites, and customize Internet allowances for the house and children based on age and maturity. With one touch of the button, you can even turn off the Internet for any user. A router will store all of the Internet history (even when a child has gone incognito.) Do you know how to check past history? It’s not too hard to learn. You CAN do it!
Increasing supervision online
Kids are being bombarded by addictions and as adults, most of us probably find it hard to put down our own phones. Imagine how hard this is for kids with developing emotions and brains and who are less able to self-regulate.
Facebook and Instagram have recently faced backlash for creating platforms that form addictions through algorithms. The Social Dilemma on Netflix is a pertinent watch for kids and parents to understand how they target online users. Lately, even seven-year-olds are on Roblox. The other week Kim Kardashian’s six-year-old child stumbled upon a sex ad about his own mom on Roblox. Finally, conversations started to open up and many admitted to knowing of sex rooms in Roblox. Two months before the Kim Kardashian incident, the BBC did an article about explicit content and language on Roblox and how a children’s game has inappropriate content and sex inside of the children’s gaming platform.
Of course, Roblox isn’t all bad! But neither is the outdoor play area, where usually someone is keeping an eye on your child. We wouldn’t leave our children to play by themselves outside without supervision, and neither should we turn a blind eye to Roblox, Tik Tok, Instagram, Discord, Youtube, etc.
I’ve talked with many families who have kids struggling with gaming additions. Usually, it’s a teenager who has formed these addictions and the whole family suffers. What are your family’s screen time allowances or limits? How much screen time is your child allowed every day? What will you do if you find your child doesn’t get off of the phone or gaming console?
Some children and teens will easily tell you they are online for up to 12 hours a day. These issues are heavy and as much as we would all like to be immune to them, we aren’t. It’s a hard conversation for kids to admit to. There is a lot of shame. If your child was trying to be the “ideal girl,” would she easily admit her long-term addictions to you?
Parents, we are with you! It’s NEVER too late or too early to protect your kids. Let’s start today understanding this world of technology and being proactive so that our kids can stay kids longer.