Social Media and the internet ae now very much a fact of life. I attended an internet safety presentation a few years ago with the wonderful Youth Coach Helen Butler and she said, “the internet is like electricity, an important part of lives that is brilliant, but also very dangerous of not used properly.”
Some might say the internet can even be deadly. We’ve certainly seen in recent times, how the internet can be very damaging and can play a role in death and destruction. Sadly, Caroline Flack has almost become a human sacrifice to make us all sit up and start to pay attention to just how damaging it can be, when disrespectfully used. It’s such a shame it came to this for things to begin to shift, and I truly hope her death does bring about lasting change.
However, I’m sure it’s no consolation to her family and friends that her death will hopefully, mean something and be a catalyst for change that has been a long time coming. It won’t bring her back. She is unacceptable collateral damage to the weapon of mass destruction that is the hateful media of today, that threatens us all – because we consume it readily!
Almost as instantaneously as the love I felt for my children on their arrival, the fear for their safety flooded my senses and has never left. I just never imagined there would be so many dangerous challenges for them to face in the gauntlet of life!
I am a Baby Boomer and apparently my children are a part of the Snowflake Generation. I have always tried my best to build resilience in my children as I feel this is vital if they are to survive the big bad world we live in. But, because it can be such a horrible place, it’s very hard to resist the urge not to wrap our children up in cotton wool.
In a week where the awful implications of social media and trolling can have, are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. We are all looking at ways to better protect ourselves and particularly the children and young people in our lives.
It’s so hard to try and find the right balance between looking after your children whilst not smothering them at the same time, I admit to having a motion detector Angel Monitor, which meant that we would be deafened and traumatised every time Saoirse rolled over in her cot, but I drew the line at a video monitor – I had lots of things on Sky Plus to watch instead!
May 3rd 2007 will ever be etched in my mind as a day of a serious terrorist attack – little Madeline McCann went missing in Portugal. Saoirse was five months old and I was at home on maternity leave.
With the ever-increasing popularity of ‘always on’ news and my somewhat obsessive personality, Sky news became ‘always on’ companion, as I watched the search and became increasingly distressed, the longer she was gone. Sadly, we all know there has still been no ending, happy or even adequate to Madeline’s story, and I often think of her and hope that the answer to where she is, will be answered in my lifetime.
Madeline’s disappearance changed my parenting forever. As a newly terrified parent, I used to wander the house every night checking all of the internal doors were locked, to make sure no one could get to my precious little Saoirse. Obviously, the fire risk of doing this was so much more dangerous, but at the time I just couldn’t see that.
We had an alarm system fitted, that I rarely switched on when we left the house, but was resolute that it must be switched on every night when the kids were in bed. Mick and I had many debates about the merits of micro chipping children – obviously I was in the ‘for’ corner, whilst he was in the ‘not a hope in hell’ section of the debate. I think there were definitely times that Mick considered getting me committed during the first year of Saoirse’s life as I was so obsessed with her safety.
If I needed to use the bathroom whilst we were out and about, I would have to pee with the cubicle door open so I could have Saoirse’s pushchair in there with me. I had to always hope that my muff management was up to date and that no one got a playboy like view of my lady bits. On the plus side, Saoirse was potty trained at an early age because she did so much research watching me pee.
But as time marched on I got slightly less staunch in my pursuit of ‘keeping my child safe’. Although I do have to admit that, I am already stressed about when they are adults, and if they one day go off travelling. Whilst I want them all to have adventures and explore the world, I must admit to considering buying a wig and a round the world plane ticket so I can stalk them on their travels. To help me manage my fears, I have stopped watching things like ‘Criminal Minds’ and I highly warn any anxious parent never to watch the movie ‘Wolf Creek’.
My kids participate in dangerous sports like, horse riding, rugby and Irish dancing (it’s dangerous when Erin does it). I let them go on the trampoline, ride bikes, scooters and skateboards and I have even started letting Saoirse have small trips out with her friends as long as I am close by (often closer than she thinks).
So hopefully the only snowflake trait that my little treasures will have, will be that they are totally unique. But I think we need to try not to beat ourselves up too much about the way we parent, social media does plenty of that for us as it is.
But how do we ever begin to protect our little treasures against the world wide web of dangers they may now encounter. We all have a suite of apps, trackers, alerts etc to invade their privacy and manager their every move, but in truth I feel the best we can do for our children is to develop and educate their own sense of personal security.
By personal security I don’t just mean sending them to self-defence classes, teaching them how to kick out a tail light from the inside of a car boot should they ever be kidnapped, and how to alert the back to a mugging at the ATM by putting in your PIN backwards!
Their internal self-security and sense of personal well being and self esteem needs a much greater investment and that begins with us ourselves. Children do what they see, and we all set the biggest example of self esteem by the way we treat ourselves and others.
Whether this is not talking about our own or other people’s weight, wrinkles, car, home, outfit etc etc in a derogatory way, continuously second guessing the decisions we make or being swayed or worse, judged by what the endless media dictates is the right or wrong way to do things, encouraging our children to make their own decisions, respect other people’s opinions and differences, leading by example in taking responsibility for the impact our comments or actions have.
Teaching our children about self-respect and respect of others is how we drive changes in attitude and behaviour that will hopefully undo the damage that is being done. I saw a great response to Caroline Flack’s death, federations of hairdressers refusing to buy gossip magazines anymore, that is an excellent start. If we don’t feed the predators and parasites of the tabloid media and paparazzi, then hopefully they will eventually starve and fade away to nothing. It’s our choice to make!
A great Cherokee proverb tells us of the wolves of good and bad that inhabit all of our psyches. The one that wins is the one we feed. So as responsible parents, we need to make sure we ourselves aren’t feeding any nasty wolves, after all what person in their right mind would feed a nasty wolf around children!
I leave you with the words of Jerry Springer (not exactly a beacon of hope and positivity I know) “be good to yourselves, and each other!”