In our previous blog we began to address some of the reasons why children and families are in such pain. For our next blog we would like to look at the internet and how its use can damage families and children and a few small steps we can take to reduce the risk.
Let’s start by registering what a wonderful aide the internet can be to education (my children do homework on it), family time (we stream movies from Netflix), communication (my eldest daughter and social media appear to be symbiotic) and entertainment (my youngest loves Friv, an online games hub).
Fegans would list the risk and dangers of the internet as the following. When reading the list it is worth bearing in mind that 44% of teenagers take their phones to bed and use them during the night.
- Sexting – Sending intimate self-images to friends that can be widely shared via social media. This can lead to being blackmailed leading to further coercion, damage, or worse.
- Trolling – Being bullied. Particularly pernicious because it is public, and via smart phones relentless, throughout the day and night. Messages include “hurt yourself” and other damaging words.
- Pornography – The average age that a child (male and female) watches pornography is 11 years old. 88% of pornography involves some form of violence towards women. Our children are at risk of being exposed to sexual violence and developing copycat expectations at an incredibly early age.
- Gaming – ‘18’ rated games are routinely played by 12 and 13 years olds. The imagery and desensitising nature of this cannot be over emphasised, nor can the risk of addiction and exposure to online groomers.
- Online grooming – Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC recently described the internet as “a playground for paedophiles”
What can we do?
The inevitable question that arises from this is what can be done? David Cameron recently said (when he was still Prime Minister) that parenting classes should be an aspiration for everyone. I think that the common denominator of all of the above isn’t the internet, but rather how parents engage with their children’s use of it. Practical tips, if your family may be suffering in this way, are:
- Do not allow connectivity in your children bedroom. Any contact that can be used to blackmail or groom your child is more difficult if the computer is in the lounge or kitchen.
- Set clear online boundaries for your children and consequences if the boundaries are broken.
- If your child is an avid or even addicted computer user (e.g. gamer) spend time in the room with them. Try to understand, and enter their world and make a connection.
If you are concerned about the issues raised in this blog, please visit our Parents Support page to find out more about how we can help.