It’s a jungle online

My son is six. Earlier this year we bought a family iPad and before you could say ‘Gee the Apple store was busy today’ our son had the thing mastered. He was sliding his finger across the screen, minimising, maximising, cutting between Superhero Sports on Iview and Fruit Ninja in the App store.
He has been born in a time where technological know-how is not learned – it’s innate.
I was born on the cusp of this new era and over the past decade have had to learn the new technologies which have completely transformed my profession.
But alarm bells began to ring when Alex asked me one morning, ‘Mummy, what’s gay mean?’
Umm, why do you ask, I stalled.
‘Well on You Tube, Lego Batman told Lego Robin to stop carrying on like a gayboy.’
AHHHHGGGGGGG, What had I done? Parent of the year is … not me.

I had committed cardinal sin number one of the online world – I had not monitored my child’s online activity. I had stupidly assumed that my six-year-old would not be able to navigate You Tube because I had tried and failed. And when I saw that he was watching a funny little Lego movie, I had assumed it was a general release movie … no I didn’t check.
If I had I’d have discovered it was in fact a home-made movie, made by Lego nerds and uploaded to You Tube and definitely NOT suitable for six-year-olds.
Lesson learned. You Tube, the Internet and the App store have all been barred on the Ipad (no I didn’t have to ask the six-year-old how to do it) and mummy now pays much closer attention to what the kids are doing and watching online.

I’m not alone in my concerns about the impact the online world has on kids. I recently wrote about a group of parents and high school teachers who have sought expert advice on how to help their teens control their online lives. These teens are in a program for gifted students and over the past couple of years their teachers and parents have watched with dismay as their grades have dropped. They blame the rise of social media. Some mums say their kids are addicted to online games, texting and Facebooking. One woman said she found her son and his two mates were sitting in the same room ‘talking’ via Facebook. None of that old fashioned face-to-face stuff for them. You can read about it here and here.