Having rudely awoken up at 6.30am this morning by a coughing fit, I decided to get up and go and sit in the lounge. Last night I had installed KDE desktop onto my laptop, and had been grappling with the weird font problems in Firefox. This morning I’m sitting here waiting for Thumpah and my son to wake up and while surfing and having breakfast I came across an article about “cyberbullying” on the BBC News site.
From my opening paragraph and the fact I keep a blog, you can see that I do actually spend a lot of time online. Especially reading articles and as a reference tool. However, being a-nearly-40-year-old I cannot conceive having had a childhood bursting with the technology that we now have. When I was 10 I was quite pleased with a 1950’s “wind on” Agiflash camera my Dad repaired and gave me. The idea of having even a Hi-Fi or TV in my room was totally unheard of – and of course computers and internet didn’t exist in my life back then at all. I don’t think I even had a record player till my mid teens and as for a TV, I acquired an old 1960’s “portable” (complete with valves) when I was about 18.
All that to say that I am certainly on another planet where cyberbullying is concerned! Of course like a lot of kids back then I experienced “real” bullying (real in my mind, I mean) – which was direct name calling and the occasional fight. Usually I came off the worst, and in those days “telling a grown up” was dimly thought of and usually made matters a whole lot worse. I even remember being hit with a slipper on my backside by my primary school head-mistress for having inconvenienced my parents coming to school, to complain because I had been constantly bullied and one day had decided to lash out. As a result cutting the head of the bullier… and *I* was the one reprimanded???
Now being a father of a pre-school age son, all this is around the corner. Perhaps not the cyberbullying itself but the more “traditional bullying” I remember myself as a child. He will turn 3 next May and like most French children will start school a few short months after.
The article speaks of kids younger than 10 years old having their own mobile phones, those younger than 13 years old having access to social networking sites such as Facebook. All unthinkable for me, but what benchmark to you use? It is obvious to me that as a parent you need to sensor what children access on the internet and sanction what they use to communicate with other children. Of course there is peer pressure (something that I do not relish) that other kids have mobiles already at such a young age, so I can imagine my son eventually saying “Well. Why can’t I have one?”.
Perhaps that provides peace of mind to many parents of children younger than 10, but I just cannot imagine my son having one at such a young age. Try explaining that to him one day!
As for the net, I could come off as the worst hypocrite there… as I use it rather a lot. Its a lifeline. Although my son has had the first tastes of using a computer – mainly through looking at childrens programmes on Youtube or using Tux paint, I’ve always been the one to control what he can and cannot use on a computer. Not that he knows his way around one yet! Mind you, he can already choose which DVD he wants and put it in the player – then pack it away afterwards… so it is only a short matter of time before he understands how the net functions.
As a parent that means that I’m going to always be looking over my shoulder. Already the main PC he accesses is in our lounge, the idea of putting a PC in his bedroom when he is older for me isn’t such a good idea – despite any future protests he might make. Parents leaving a pre-teenage child alone on a PC for me is totally irresponsable. But where do you draw the line? 12?… 13?… 14?… How do I know? I didn’t grow up with computers around me!
As for having a mobile phone before the age of 10? We are not too mobile phone as it is at the moment. We both have one, but aside from going away from home for any prolonged amount of time (such as a holiday) they both remain uncharged in a corner of the house somewhere. Sometimes I actually forget where!
Frankly I am going to be more inclined to put off my son having a mobile phone as long as possible. As for computer supervision – I feel that your child needs to learn the dangers of the internet from a very young age and to be told the truth about the nasties out there. Irresponsible parents wrecklessly leaving kids to use the net as they wish are certainly not helping the cyberbullying aspect. But as with all kids peer pressure will always play a part.
Maybe it is time to add “nettiquette” onto the school curriculum???