MY daughter is only four, so this isn’t an issue I’ve had to confront just yet. But it’s something I’m mindful of already, because I honestly don’t know how I’m going to help her navigate puberty when it’s experienced via a screen.
I remember visiting my niece interstate when she was 12; she’d been going through a rough patch at school and was receiving a few menacing texts.
As she passed me her phone and I scrolled through the bitchy messages, my heart sank. Not only because I saw the nasty notes from her ‘friends’, but also because I saw a few other texts that she’d probably have preferred I didn’t.
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From Tom: “Man, I’m so hungover. How are you feeling today?”
And Lydia: “OMG, so drunk last night LOLZ. I don’t even remember going to Lou’s house!”
Did I mention that these kids were 12?!
This was a number of years ago, before iPhones, and before social media had really taken off. I can only imagine how much worse these exchanges are getting now that photos and videos and instant online streaming is involved. Instead of texting about your hangover, there will be pictorial evidence of your drunken adventure.
And that’s not the only threat facing our teenagers.
There are also the predators who lurk online at the social media haunts our young people like to frequent.
One such predator was arrested this week. A Victorian man is alleged to have travelled from his home state to Queensland, with plans to have sex with a 14-year-old girl.
He was 47 years old – biologically old enough to be her grandfather.
Fortunately, what he believed to be a vulnerable teenage girl was actually a highly specialised investigator from the Queensland Police Service Task Force known as Argos, which is responsible for the investigation of on-line child exploitation and abuse.
I have a relative who works in this department. The stories she recounts are enough to make you lose faith in humanity.
Argos have released a statement this month in the lead up to school holidays, urging parents to pay attention to what their kids are doing online and reminding them that offenders often gain access to children “using the social media and online apps and programs we use every single day”.
I know what my child is doing online – nothing. She’s four. Do you know what your kids are getting up to and how do you broach conversations around privacy and safety online? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments because even though I’m still years away from dealing with this, I’m fretting already and I know I’ll need all the help I can get!
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