It's everywhere on social media right now #metoo - pulling focus to sexual abuse.
I had a scary flash of intuition the other day. I had bought myself a new phone and still have the old one, so I had considered giving it to Milla. I didn't really consider it for too long as what would a 9 year old need a phone for? She doesn't even walk home from school by herself. I talked myself out of letting her have it pretty quickly, however, I do allow her to use it from time to time.
The other day she was on Skype to a good friend of hers that has just moved a few hours away and is about to attend a new school in a new city she is unfamiliar with. So Milla and her spent an hour and a half on the phone, showing each other bedrooms, animals, long grass in the back yard, their stinky feet - that kind of innocent kid stuff. I was working in my office - and then I heard "can you guess what colour undies I have on?".
It was innocent enough with a friend, also 9, giggling along without a care in the world, but I suddenly thought - what if? It occurred to me that Milla won't know about sexual predators, paedophiles, abusers, perverts - nothing so obscene. She only thinks in terms of 'Cyber Bullies'. They haven't covered this sort of abuse in school - and why would they?
So this afternoon there is going to be a frank conversation. This is my choice for how to inform her, and with my daughter, I will be using all of the correct terminology and also using examples of how predators 'groom' kids. I have read everything that pops up in social media about it - stories, what to look out for etc. I do not in any way consider myself an expert but the one thing I want to do as a parent in my lifetime is protect and educate my daughter on what to look out for.
I don't want ignorance to be an open gateway into her innocence.
I understand that not everyone will agree with me. Every kid is different, every experience is different, every personality brings along with it a different set of coping mechanisms, but I guess for me, the protection will come in the form of education. I fear that one day she will find herself in a situation where she is out of her depth and feel that she has no other way out of it than to comply. I am down-playing that actually - it's more my greatest fear.
With modern technology, social media and online anonymity comes a huge new set of ever changing holes in a child's safety.
I spend a lot of time with my child debunking the fears of sexuality - explaining that there are so many types of normal not held within the binary construct that we were faced with as kids. Now that she is comfortable with those explanations, I now have to tell her to be guarded and to trust her instincts, and above all, tell me everything.
There are going to be rules set out:
1. No social media before 12 years old
2. I must know ALL of her passwords for any account until she is 16
3. She must NOT talk to anyone on any device that she does not know, that I do not know
4. If she is at a friends house, and feels unsafe for any reason, tell the caregiver or parent or, more importantly - call me.
5. She is always allowed to tell me anything and everything, call me up at whatever time of the day or night without judgement or fear - I encourage it
It will be a real balancing act. Allowing her to be herself, friendly, open, conversant - but also not too revealing of herself, a little guarded where need be - and for her to feel comfortable in saying "No".
I would be interested in anyone else's take on this. How do you plan to talk to your kids? What are you going to say - and what language will you use? How do you balance out fear with instinct?
Keep safe out there everyone.