Cyber Mum Vs Cyber Daughter
My daughter has been raised in an age where technology quite simply rules! From age 11 until 18 today it plays a huge part in her life.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) my daughter was raised by a Mum heavily involved and invested in Cyber Security.
On our Cyber journey together there have been tears, tantrums and laughs. I remember my worry when she signed-up for to Facebook, and the fun we had watching Vines together. I realised I was getting old when she pulled a horrified face because I didn’t know what Vine was, and the moaning when it was finally pulled by Twitter.
The very beginning
So, I buckled to the pressure and allowed my daughter to have FB once she started high school. Yes, I was extremely reluctant, but she was already several years behind her peers in joining. As an aside, someone please tell me how their age restriction is enforced- laughable! At first I insisted that she could only use it on the shared family computer, and that she gave me her login credentials.
We used to sit together as she went through her pages, feeds and chats, and those of her friends. Back then it was part of our quality time and she wanted to share it all with me. I learned so much more about her TBH.
In turn I would show her resources that highlighted the risks of online grooming, sexting, scamming etc., Stinson Hunter is a good example. She sometimes watched CrimeWatch with me too if I spotted a relevant programme. It all generated discussion and debate and she found my behind-the-scenes viewpoint fascinating. It was all about using a variety of resources to highlight the dangers so it didn’t seem to her that I was just nagging!
After about three years or so I thought my helpful parental input (nagging) had done the job. Then one day she declared that she fully understood and would be careful BUT that I shouldn’t just assume that every stranger online was a scammer/stalker/paedophile. Aaaargh!
Anyway, those were the halcyon days, where she only had access to our shared computer.
The first snazzy mobile phone and tablet
So, further down the line, our house was equipped with (relatively) fast Wi-Fi, and my daughter had a smart phone and a tablet, both Wi-Fi and 3G enabled. Goodbye ‘shared computer’, Hello new avenues to freak me out. Let battle commence!
Because I preach the necessity of having complex and varied passwords- across all accounts, remembering all of her logins and mine was becoming a challenge. I had fallen foul of my own advice (this was before I knew of password managers) so I implemented spot checks. It was agreed that I could take a device without notice and do a quick review of the content/history.
One evening, as I was reviewing suspicious messages on her FB with ‘a boy in America’, those messages started to disappear before my eyes. The sneaky so-and-so was accessing the feed from another device and deleting the trail! She had clearly learned a lot more about technology. I then had to up my game, I had to collect every device around the home and ensure my daughter was physically in front of me at spot check. As you can imagine this didn’t work very well.
Trying to keep track of everything your child does on social media can be a challenge and as they grow older the control you once had can be lost.
There are very real dangers online, whether it be bullying from supposed friends/classmates or contact from a complete stranger, our children are vulnerable and very much alone online. You have to teach them, and trust them, to make the right judgements about people online. You just don’t know if that person is who they say they are.
We have dealt with Cyber Bullying. It’s heart-breaking as a Mum and not easy to get through. I can’t believe how vicious kids seem to be these days, but again its online, not in person.
I noticed a change in her behaviour (moodier than usual, withdrawn, upset/aggressive around technology) and we talked. It had been going on for a few days but “luckily” the bullying had been initiated by people we knew in the real world. I got the school involved and eventually the situation was resolved. I advised my daughter to switch off notifications, implement blocking of certain individuals/apps and just kept checking in on how she was coping. I can imagine bullying by unknown individuals to be even more challenging to deal with!
Soon she will be off to University
Now I’m not actually sure where the years have gone but in a few short months my daughter is off to university and despite my years of rules, restrictions, educational talks and general fear mongering I STILL have concerns.
I will always have concerns, I am her mother and she will always be my baby girl to some extent, and I watch too much CSI. As far as I’m concerned yes there is a potential crazy friend, stalker, murderer or rapist around every physical or cyber corner!
We went out for dinner recently, just the two of us it was lovely. My daughter talked me through some of her apps and how she manages them. She very proudly highlighted how she had heeded my word and had only followed 80 people, all of whom she knew personally. What threw me was the fact that she had 3,700 followers (who she didn’t know) and thought this was fine!
I may not work in a bank or hold clearance for anything sensitive BUT if I did anyone who wanted to target me or a member of my family might find her social media interesting. She posts when we go out, Tweets at the end of the street, Instagram photo of a road sign en-route, checks-in when we arrive. To her its OK, but I find the fact that 3,700 strangers know our whereabouts is ABSOLUTELY CRAZY. Again I talked to her about the dangers of being a young woman in the big wide world.
What can you do?
There are no easy tips and tricks for managing children and their use of social media.
You can monitor them, block sites and restrict access on devices, but as I learned there are ways around everything. Also those techniques can cause friction, and perhaps more importantly they don’t actually teach them anything. That’s not to say the basic access control and regular precautions shouldn’t be taken BTW.
It is imperative that you just talk to your offspring. Ensure they know the dangers but that you trust their judgement. Use appropriate 3rd party resources to get your point across. Ensure they use varied passwords or password managers. Help them go through their online presence and show them how to restrict access to their posts, and highlight the dangers of anything that they have done in a non-confrontational manner.
Concerns (to list a specific few… I could go on!)
- Cyber Bullies
- Sexting and the sharing of indecent peer images
- Talk to them!
- Spend quality time together on their social media – learn to enjoy and embrace what they do, I’ve certainly learned more about my sprog from it.
- Instil the behaviour that we preach at work- passwords for mobile devices, unique passwords for different accounts, stick tape over the web cam, security settings within applications and limitations on what strangers can see vs friends.
- Use TV shows, 3rd party videos, and all the resources and blogs you can to drive your point home
Every kid is different and each of their relationships in the online world will be different. I’m not professing to know your child, it’s hard to get the balance right.
BUT if all else fails, confiscate their technology and get out the board games.