When I was in primary school, we didn’t have mobile phones, computers or the internet. Sex wasn’t something that was talked about, I think we knew about private parts and kissing and that was about it. Nowadays there is a whole new world available to children at the swipe of a screen. As soon as you allow them to have their own phone, you’re opening them up to it. Is it as simple as not allowing it though? Their friends may have access when they play together, and they can easily show them something they’re not ready to see. Older siblings too, could have things on their phone that a younger sibling can view. I worry for the future when I have a 15 year old and a 10 year old in the house together.
I have a familiar modern day struggle with my children, I want them to have access to technology and the internet, but I also want to shelter them from seeing things too young. We have parental controls in place, and when they’re on the computer, it’s in our prescence. They have a mobile phone at home, but it doesn’t have a sim card, so it runs off the wireless – they use this for games and apps. It’s natural for children to be curious and that grows as they grow up – we used to look up rude words in the dictionary and science textbooks – looking up those words on the internet is the same for them but the results will be vastly different!
I remember doing a ‘you show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ among friends at primary school, but with technology now photos are being exchanged and messaged to each other, which stays forever and can easily get into the wrong hands. Young children and tweens just don’t have the emotional maturity to know the consequences. According to research carried about by Row mobile phone insurance, a quarter (26%) of primary school kids have sent rude or sexually explicit messages on apps such as Facebook and Snapchat, with 1 in 5 also having received rude messages or indecent photos. These are kids as young as 5, but mostly it applies to 6-11 year olds.
It turns out girls are more likely to be involved, with 1 in 6 girls sending messages, compared to 1 in 20 boys. 50% will have been exposed to bad language by the time they are 11.
What do the parents think?
The parents of the children who took part in the survey were actually less concerned than you might think, with almost a fifth not monitoring their child’s online usage at all, and the average age that parents spoke to their children about online safety is age 9. This is probably too late, if these results are the norm.
My eldest is nearly 8 and he knows a little, we’ve taught him not to chat online unless he knows the person in real life, he knows not to use the search bar and that there are ‘bad’ people online. I feel like we should go into more depth with him soon. My almost 6 year old daughter wants to go on the computer more now, mostly to play on the CBeebies website, but I still worry she’ll stumble across something.
Parents from the survey were most worried about Facebook, followed by Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and YouTube. I think I’m most worried about Instagram for my daughter, when the time comes, as the quest for perfection and likes can be harmful. I have expressed concern previously about my son and his love of Roblox, I’m still wary of it, but on this survey gaming consoles came out as the ones parents were least concerned over. The average age for talking to children about sex was age 10 according to the research, with a worrying 7% choosing not to talk to them at all, and 10% waiting until the child reaches high school.
For me, I’m waiting until they ask – they’ve asked how babies come out, and I’ve told them, but they’ve not asked how babies get in! Having a medical background I will approach it in a factual way, and I’m not worried about talking to them about it. It’ll be embarrassing, but no doubt more for them than me. I have a picture book somewhere all about the facts of life ready for when the time comes. I’ve never shied away from it though, so I’m probably an exception rather than the rule.
I’d love to hear your thoughts – do you allow your primary school child a mobile phone? How do you monitor what they’re doing online? What concerns you most about social media and the online world for your children?
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Disclosure: this is a collaborative post, all opinions are my own