Parental Perception of Online Safety
A recent story in the newspapers highlights the increased risk of online safety for our children today. See the link at the bottom of this blog if you want to read the whole story.
I want to look at it from a different angle though. And I would welcome your thoughts.
The problem isn’t the safety of the boy as he played online. The problem is our perception, as parents, of online safety in a game such as Minecraft.
Would you let your child of 8 walk through the streets of your town at 8pm on a Saturday night? Of course not! Our perception as parents would be that it is far too dangerous, even though, statistically it’s not as dangerous as we think.
Child abductions are more likely to occur within families, not by random strangers. But that’s not how we perceive it.
So if I asked you: would you let your 8 year old “walk” through the streets of a virtual town at 9pm on a Saturday night, what would you say?
More importantly, as you think about it now, HOW are you thinking about it? Not what do you think, but how are you processing the question?
Would it be something like this:
- He’s in his room
- He’s on his computer
- I know where he is
- I know what he’s doing
- He’s playing a computer game
- He’s safe…
The fact that he’s not physically walking the actual streets of a real town influences how we think about these matters, and to be frank, in 2016, this kind of thinking is 30 years out of date.
When I was a boy in the 70’s, I would often go to the canal with my mates at the age of 6 or 7 and upwards. My own son is now 8 and he rarely goes out of the house to play unless it’s to a friend’s house, and he especially does not go out on his own to play in the street. I live on a main road though…
How are you perceiving MY behaviours as a parent as you read that?
If you think I’m being sensible, and it’s obvious, then you’re the zeitgeist of modern parental thinking.
If you think I’m being over-protective and kids need to explore, then you might be right too. If we go by the statistics, at least.
So how does your thinking about your child’s physical safety in the street in which you live transfer to their online safety in something like Minecraft?
What is the relationship between your thinking regarding physical safety and online safety?
That question is too involved to explore here, but suffice to say that the world of 2016 is not the same as when I was a boy in the 70’s.
ANY safety issues we can think of from a physical perspective absolutely have to transfer over to the virtual world, as children spend more and more time online, in online games and on social media.
If a child can be vulnerable whilst walking through your town centre, with the fewest number of people around them, then consider how vulnerable they might be online, where millions of people are interacting on a minute-by-minute basis.
The point is: their exposure to potential harm online is greater than in the physical world, and it’s not their activities that need to change, but OUR perception of their safety from our parental perspective that needs to adapt and evolve to accommodate the new world our children occupy.
For more information on how to keep you children safe online we have a free online course with videos and resources. They can be found HERE