Safety First.

Last week, two of the girls perpetrated a heinous crime in our home, breaking the keeping safe code that is firmly laid down amongst us here. I appreciate some children have vast and unlimited amounts of freedom to roam and be responsible for themselves. Some kids have ample opportunity to practice getting themselves around town, on and off buses, to and from school, to the park, back from the park. All those things. However, where we live (a nice, safe area, much to recommend it) doesn’t especially lend itself to practising. We spend most of our time getting in and out of the car rather than walking places and so the opportunities to strengthen the skills required for keeping safe out and about are more limited. I lived somewhere very similar though and was perfectly capable of moving straight to London at 18, so I’m fairly sure it won’t be a disaster, but I would like to be able to give them more independence. Added to that, they don’t actually ask to separate off too much; Fran was offered lots of ‘go to town on your own’ chances before she finally decided she wanted to. When I think back to how I railed against limiting parenting as a teen, I’m never quite sure if we’ve been excellent at all this parenting malarky or terrible.

Responsible parenting. See?

I am a spectacularly anxious parent, or was until Freddie when I decided that the old adage about locking yourself in a room and dying because a picture fell on your head was about as true as it can be. One way I get round my constant panic that something will happen to one of them is to have rules that we apply very firmly. They are my Daily Mail rules; if we follow these rules and something bad happens, will I still get pilloried in the Daily Mail? One of them is that, yes, you can go to the park in a group but you always stick together, you always move in a pack and you always stick with the person who knows the area the best. So when two of them broke that rule, with the faked explanation that they didn’t come back because X wanted to stay at the park on her own, I was furious. I frogmarched them home and sent them to bed (for their own safety… :roll: ) and they knew they’d seriously overstepped the mark. Having firm guidelines I expect them to operate within lets me feel I can allow them freedom and if they break them, it puts me in the position of wanting to be stricter than I truly think I should be.

I do sometimes think I have done a better job of instilling this from the top down than I have individually; Fran and Maddy would never break this and had all of them been there, Fran would not have allowed the younger ones to do what they did. It was a useful lesson to me in remembering that pack mentality won’t work now the pack is not always together.

Safety of course isn’t only when you are out and about and since the desperate case of the Soham girls, parents have been all too aware that real life and online can merge into one thing. Safety online isn’t as simple as installing an antivirus software resource; getting a computer clear of a virus is the easy bit. Our girls have been reasonably active online for years. We take care to monitor but we also try to teach them to think for themselves and query whether something is safe on their own. Fran has tripped up a few times, letting details out about herself or us that might be best kept under wraps. Maddy fell slightly foul of the Moshi Monsters noticeboard loophole but Club Penguin has taught them all useful lessons about how to stay safe. The limited accounts gave them a good insight into how little it is really safe to say online. For me, this gentle exposure to a media that is going to rule their lives is a sensible thing, best done while they can ask and query things with us. So far none of them have done anything truly dreadful but last weeks episode reminded me that now the a DS has browsing capabilities, I need to make sure I am as careful to teach and monitor the younger two as I was with the older ones.

A couple of weeks ago this thought provoking article got Fran and I talking a lot. For better or worse, I started using their names online a long time ago, long before we ever understood that the internet would become the way it has. I breached their confidential status without even thinking about it and they have to live with knowing they have a footprint already. So be it. What Fran and all the others will have to learn is how to safeguard their moment to moment privacy. The article was a good way of helping her to see how easily she could put herself at risk if she doesn’t think carefully about what a check in, a status, a tweet or any other random online location based comment online could potentially do.

It’s an interesting thing, parenting in the 21st century. Whoever thought making sure they understood about safe sex would be the easy bit?

  5 comments for “Safety First.

  1. July 22, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Oh I read that article too. Creepy extreme. I have bookmarked it for my girls. I hardly ever check in anywhere either. Also… about using their name thing. It’s hard isn’t it. I did too and part of me feels bad. But then I have no doubt they’ll have Facebook accounts and whatever else as soon as they can, which is all their details too. You can’t hide anywhere!!

  2. Sarah
    July 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Not sure how I’m going to teach the safety thing – we live somewhere that requires a car and even to get to the park is to cross the main road with no crossing to hand.
    Eldest is very sensible usually but boy is a problem. Where we were previously it was a lovely safe stroll to the park though did need to keep an eye out for cars round the blind corner of the lane. He played a blinder when he was three and I was with him and his sister in the park – she was tantrumming and whilst I dealt with that he decided he had enough and went home by himself with no comment. I spent the next 10 mins running round the park which has a wooded area and stream as part of it, pregnant carrying a still tantrumming 5 year old, noticing that the group of teens had also gone , and getting very stressed. Finally decided he was not around and headed off home as had not taken phone with me, to find him in the middle of the road half way up the hill to our house, not a care in the world and greatly surprised when he spent the rest of the day in his room. Am hoping one day he will start to listen to me but no sign of that as yet.

    Am not liking the sound of that app. I don’t ever check in on face book but have plenty of friends who do…

  3. July 22, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Dear me. Just spent an hour reading all of this. Ugh. Thanks so much Merry…

  4. July 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Thank you for writing this, I am fairly careful about my privacy on FB and only used Four Square for a short time. I never realised such apps were about, and I am sure these sort of apps will become more of a problem as the years go on I think I am now better equipped to teach my eldest (9) of how safe you have to keep yourself. I am now off to make sure my settings on FB are all how they should be.

  5. July 23, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Ughh, that article has totally creeped me out. With two teen girls, I do worry…

    Merry, you made me laugh with the daily mail rules, that’s just how I think of it too.

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