"...that doorway is not to the bedroom, but a doorway to the streets"
I am sure by now, most have seen Amanda Todd's video. I suppose that this terrible case is being grouped in with the Cyber Bullying outrage of late, but of course this stalking, threatening, and ultimately life ending situation extends way beyond what most of us consider bullying.
What it does bring to light, is the fact that our homes are no longer a place of safety, protection from the evils of those who wish to do us harm. We are all very well conditioned from the age of learning to understand spoken word, not to take candy from strangers, never get in a strangers vehicle (regardless of the reason), never let a stranger touch you. JUST SAY NO and run! It is like a mantra, that has been repeated thousands of times to us as we find freedom of bike rides around the block alone, ventures to the playground a few blocks away, a walk to the store. The image is like a Norman Rockwell painting of a mother or father, bent over looking a child in the eye, with a pointed finger, reviewing the rules about strangers as the child is anxious to get out to find some freedom out of the safety of their home.
These doorway warnings were effective, as I recall personally, very clearly - swinging on a swing set . keeping an eye out for strangers, slow moving cars, men walking alone.. we were all well conditioned to these dangers.
As adults, I am sure our children are now equally tattooed with these warnings. It is easy to play the role that you parents played. Our children today are just as aware of the rules of staying safe around strangers in the park. But today - our children leave the dooryard with an iPhone in their pocket, and more often than not, visiting a friend to sit in front of a laptop computer screen. A true note of irony, is that often we supply our children with phones so we can be a call away from any danger they may face in the outside world.
What Norman Rockwell would never paint, is the image of a mother or father, bent over - eye to eye, instructing their children at the doorway of their children's bedrooms, of the dangers of strangers lurking behind a few clicks of a computer keyboard and internet access. Debatable I am sure, but personally, I feel children are in much more danger in front of a webcam, than climbing monkey bars in a park.
Any parent would panic to discover their son/daughter deep in conversation with a middle aged man alone on a playground or at a mall. I expect that this would be a rare occurrence anyway, as our children know full well not to let this happen.
So, why, why, why, are children/teens not tattooed with the dangers that lurk on their home computer? If you are reading this blog, you are obviously computer literate enough for me not to have to ramble on with the tools that predators.. and even worse, soon to be predators use to gain the trust and confidence of our children. Predators are not just the typical old creepy man with high-speed internet access into his darkened basement. Sure, there are predators that used to be the men that cruised playgrounds, and have just changed their tools of the trade to include the much easier internet to lure. But now there are peers, ex-girl/boy friends, young men and women are now able to freely communicate with our children for despicable motives.
I expect that as our children begin their experience with computers, we explain how there are bad people out there on the internet.. so be careful. But we would never limit a warming as dismissive as this if they were off to spend their first time at a park, or their first solo walk to the store.
The internet experience is so completely different (obviously).. a young girl would never be approached by an acquaintance on a walk to the store, be talked into exposing themselves, have a photo taken and that photo is held like blackmail against them with threat that the photo will be reprinted a thousand times and mailed to everyone they know. But on the internet this is a five minute chat, a click of a button.. and it is done. Is this form danger as clearly detailed to our children as the danger of a tinted window van with a driver offering free puppies???
It is a sad state, but until, the REAL and complete threats of the internet are repeated as many times, and monitored as much as strangers in the park.. we will have many more horror stories like Amanda Todd's repeated over and over again.
So, as your daughter, giggling along with her friends zip off to the bedroom to play on the computer.. maybe imagine that doorway is not to the bedroom, but a doorway to the outdoors, to the streets, where you cannot see their every activity and keep them safe. Do they have all of the tools to know what they should and should not do?