Whether our children are into cycling, motorcycling, BMX, Skateboarding, Motocross, or roller-skating, it is only a matter of time before accidents happen. One of my adrenaline-junkie friends always says there are two types of riders: those who have had their first accident; and those who are going to have their first accident. This analogy can be applied to our children’s online and offline activities.
When you buy your child his or her first bicycle, or pair of roller-skates it typically goes hand-in-hand with a helmet to keep them safe in case they fall. Through trying out and playing different types of sports, we equip them with the right gear to ensure they play it safe.
Navigating their digital journeys, online interactions or the way they search for information on their mobile devices are not dissimilar. With smartphones being such an integral part of our future and the careers they will eventually choose, we don’t want to deprive them from participating in the digital world, but we want to ensure they play it safe.
…but definitely not my child
As parents, we sometimes get stuck thinking about our children as the innocent toddlers and kids they were. We picture them unwrapping their first bicycle with the safety wheels still on, wanting to put their helmets on the right way. Still knowing that they need protection and not giving any attention to whether this look is cool enough, which becomes the main concern in their teenage years.
The harder reality that we are faced with, is that even when we think they are ‘innocence impersonated’, they are subjected to an amount of peer pressure and participating in an online world that we cannot fully comprehend. They are exposed to an environment where they are constantly inundated with new apps, new online friends (who they have or have not met), new information, and a new way of balancing their digital activity and reality.
Keeping them safer in this world means reinventing the way we educate them about cyber safety and, even then, monitoring what they are exposed to, but in a way that also protects their privacy. It’s about giving them the phone, but adding the cyber safety helmet.
Protecting their young minds
Most tweens and teenagers go through a phase of getting stuck in their minds rather than talk about everything. When they encounter events that bother them, whether in person or online, their first port of call may not be their parents. They fear that when they speak up about difficult situations and their parents try to intervene (or interfere), that the situation will get worse.
This could happen when they are being bullied or cyberbullied or when they have seen content that their minds can’t really deal with at that age. They may also encounter content such as pornography or sexting that causes them to feel guilt and shame, but remaining curious to engage even more.
When these events happen, they need our help more than ever. They need advice from parents or caregivers to guide them on this journey. But for parents, not knowing when or how this happens means that we can’t protect their minds or their thoughts and unless they talk to us about it, we seldom have any way of knowing. Some parents keep a close eye on all the devices in the home, but with all our time constraints, it is so easy to miss something small that could lead to a bigger issue.
However, wearing their cyber safety helmet when they participate in the digital world, the state-of-the-art algorithms of FYI play it safe empower parents with this information. Whether their thoughts are about the bullying situation, or when they consider searching for information about self-harm or suicide, their cyber safety helmet will protect them and alert you to intervene and guide them to safety.
Playing it safe with FYI play it safe
Smart parenting is about watching them skateboard through the streets and knowing that they have the equipment to safely lean into the next corner. It’s watching them mountain biking on a single-track downhill at a ridiculous speed, but with the certainty that they are protected and are less likely to get hurt if they fall.
It is about building better relationships with our children, where we have the information to discuss actual difficult situations they encounter, rather than hypothetical scenarios. Where our guidance actively influences the content they search for, post, and like on social media. Where we have the opportunity to guide them on who they accept as friends or which messages on chats they react to and more importantly, how they respond.
Safety, whether physical, emotional, psychological, or in cyberspace isn’t expensive. It’s priceless.