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My kids and social networks

  • By Alan Knott-Craig
  • October 25, 2011

I have two young daughters. The most beautiful little girls in the world, and I can see the not-too-distant future where I am struck with fear that they might walk into real life and get into trouble…


What happens when they start going to parties, talking to boys, and using social networks like Facebook and Mxit!


Now that I have daughters the real world seems to be full of paedophiles and rapists! The very thought of them being hurt is enough to make me move to the Karoo and disconnect from society.


Mobile phones and the Internet are making it easier to connect, share, and unfortunately, to abuse… But there is no escaping it. For better or worse, it’s a new world, and my wife and I must figure out how to keep our children safe in this new world.


How do I, as a parent, protect my kids from the dangers of social media like Facebook, Mxit and Twitter?


Shouting out from the rooftops that cellphones are “da devil”, that our children are being permanently damaged, and that mobiles should be banned for under-18’s (except for when you want to call your kid at 11pm on a Friday to see whether the movie is finished) is futile.


It’s like watching a giant tsunami approaching your island and then building a sandcastle to stop the assault. We are not going to win this battle. Cellphones and the Internet are here to stay. They will become ever more enmeshed in the fabric of society.


There is plenty of good stuff that comes with this new world. Kids are socializing, making friends, accessing a wider community, learning about different cultures and playing chess! Eight thousand games of chess are started every day on Mxit… Never mind the security and convenience factor of my children having a phone on them at all times.


Parenting in the new world is not about fighting the technology war. It’s about what it’s always been about. Upbringing. I need to give my kids a sound value system, warn them to avoid strangers, and lock them in their room to finish their homework.


My daughters are coming into a hyper-connected world where a stranger in Bhutan is a Mxit message away. Are they going to chat to their friends about sex and love? Hell yes! We are human after all and Mxit is the most human of all online communities.


No amount of guarding them from the Internet or the real world will save them.


Fairy-tales come with witches, beasts and nasty stepmothers because that’s life. Beauty’s father could not protect her from the beast, but he did equip her with the values needed to keep a straight course in life, and in the end she married a prince.


Values are the magic of the real world – without them you can’t fight witches and orcs and trolls and beasts. My job is to teach the magic of values so my kids can thrive in the new world.