I was at a work Christmas party last night and the conversation turned to parenting and my big boss (my boss’, boss’, boss) was saying what a painful experience [he used another descriptive term] he was having with his 13 year old daughter. She was becoming a woman in the hormonal sense while at the same time receiving a lot of unwanted attention from boys (unwanted by him) and at 13 was finally allowed a social network account (facebook) with the following conditions: 1) her mother has the password 2) her mother and grand-mother are both friends of hers on facebook.
So that is the basic background to my thinking. We’ve all seen the horror stories of people being duped on social networks into thinking that the person they are talking to is something other than they actually are – and this happens to people young and old, with romantic and sexual connotations as well as with financial implications etc.
But there are so many “stranger danger” issues that we all had to deal with growing up, but my question is – do we have more in this new digital world or have we just moved away from one form of danger and into a new form?
It is undeniable that the world seems to have a unified hatred of paedophilia – which seems to be what parents fear is hiding behind the seemingly innocent facebook profile page. Does social networking aid paedophilia or will these people get the images no-matter where they are? The latter I think. Are we better off tracking our kids social networking behaviour and interactions online or are we best to teach them well and trust they will make smart decisions as we have always had to in previous generations?
The rise of the internet with the prolific pornography that it enables, is also a stressor in this debate. In Australia we have a pandemic of young people photographing themselves naked and sending it on to friends and prospective boyfriends via social networks or mobile phone images. The recipients of these sex photos are now being charged with possessing child pornography. Can they be serious? The law needs to catch up with the technology.
As you can see, I have more questions and no answers but I’m curious what parents think because I am not one (yet). I would like to think that I would teach my children as best I can and try to trust them but of course I would utilise the parent controls on my TV and Internet to block certain sites but when it comes to social networking the lines get very blurred.
My mum and grandma and sister are all friends of mine on facebook and many of my real life friends have the same, but I’m 33 and its a different kind of relationship that I have with my mum now. Please, tell me what you think