THE QUESTION OF RESPONSIBILITY

It’s 11.20pm on a half-term evening and I’m downstairs nagging my 14 year old son about being glued to his phone. Again.

In my mind 11.20pm is ‘unsociable’; in his circle of teenage friends the Snapchat party is just getting started. I am apparently being unreasonable by not adjusting the social media safety boundaries we put in place as he gets older.

We’ve let him stay up much later than usual – in my opinion this is a privilege and he should still be abiding by the terms we agreed when we gave him a phone aged 12; one of those being not to message friends at unsociable hours.

Does this sound familiar? As parents we face a constant battle to set safe parameters for our kids to protect them from harmful media and unhelpful interactions, yet at the same time we need to teach them to take responsibility for themselves and to learn from their mistakes. How much of this is our responsibility anyway? Should the industry giants be prioritising making it a bit easier for us to get a handle on our children’s media behaviour? Should there be a greater emphasis on teaching media literacy in schools? It’s all too easy to pass the blame and never really see any breakthrough.

We are often overloaded by contrasting advice and information; from worrying if we have enough checks and balances in place with our kids (no screens in bedrooms, no social media until age 13 etc), to allowing them to have enough freedom to learn how to live wisely in a media driven age. It sometimes feels easier just to bury our heads in the sand and hope for the best.

One of the major problems that we face is that the online world is so vast; all it takes is a few clicks for our children to access new places, meet new people and see new things. We are all too aware that it would be nigh impossible for there to be a blanket watershed on inappropriate content as we can now access whatever we want 24/7 across the internet, yet we don’t want to give up hope that some helpful change can be actioned from the top down.

Perhaps though the start of finding the answer, is that we all need to take the mantle of change upon ourselves. Parent, school, government or industry body – we all have a role to play and a responsibility to take. Instead of pretending the problem isn’t there, can we start to have an honest and open conversation please, where we stop pointing the finger and start to make real progress?

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