Over the school holidays I’ve experienced the dilemma, first-hand, of young children playing with Internet connected mobile devices.
I have had the privilege in the past, of writing about challenges with this sort of thing from a safe distance. It really hit home, how frustrating, how scary and how emotional it can get as a parent.
What happened you ask? My 10 year old daughter had a friend come over for a play date. They are great friends and have been for a number of years. They were playing silly, acting out something or other and laughing as girls do at that age. But on this occasion her friend, who owns an iPod Touch, decided to video record the play. Both girls never thought much of it. Later in the afternoon, when it was time to say goodbye, her friend might have said aloud that she had captured their ‘episode’ on her device. Slight alarm bells were ringing in my head but I didn’t give it much thought.
We later asked my daughter about the recording, just out of interest. She laughingly told us about the ‘funny stuff’ they were doing and how her friend had videoed the fun. I agreed that it was funny and innocent stuff but I put it to her that her friend might decide to ‘post’ their play on the Internet for a very wide audience. Her friend may not do this with ill-intention, but it was a real possibility. My daughter was mortified. Who would see this funny but private play? Teachers at school? Other students at school that would see her in a different light? Strangers? She began crying while imagining the possibilities.
We consoled her immediately, saying that we could ring her mother and request that the movie be deleted. We did exactly that and she felt a lot better. While tucking her into bed, we spent a bit of time talking about the lesson learnt. It wasn’t a scolding, it was taking the opportunity to let her know how good it was that she was able to learn the dangers about using technology. It really was a powerful lesson.
What can you do as parents? Friends will own this sort of technology before we deem it necessary for our own children to have them. We might have a rule where if friends come over to play, and they’ve brought with them smart phones or Internet connected devices, they only play with them in the lounge room or dining room (somewhere where we are). At the very least, no devices in bedrooms. We have this rule in place already, but now we have to be wary of friends coming over with their devices.
Mobile devices need to be considered by parents – and not just your own!