No, I’m not a ‘helicopter’ parent, but as Elliott gets older and I think more and more about the world we live in, I hear about it, I read about it and I worry, I’m of the bubble wrap generation and I just might be bubble wrapping my child to a degree but for good reason.
The video games back then were amazing to us; it was either Atari or Nintendo Mario Brothers. I can remember loving being babysat by our next door neighbours, they had a Nintendo, and we would sit all night and play Mario Brothers. We had a Commodore computer which was very basic, and when the internet came out in the 90’s, it was amazing but nothing like what we know now.I remember sitting in my bedroom for hours recording songs from the radio onto a tape and making numerous mixed tapes, I read books. There were no mobile phones, surround sound, iPods, Facebook or Twitter and we didn’t have flat screen TV’s, instead of a TV where you had to tune it to the station and battle the ‘black and white ants’ and white noise. For most of my schooling life until year 12 when I got my driver’s license, we had 40c to make a phone call or we used reverse charges. I got a mobile phone when I started driving; all it could do was make phone calls and receive SMS. It’s all I needed.
I’m happy to say that during my childhood I used my imagination, I developed social skills, I got outdoors and it was OK to walk distances by ourselves.
But now, as a parent, I don’t believe anyone that says we can still let our children play on the streets, walk or ride somewhere alone without worry, or that using the internet, having smart phones at a young age and computers will not have an effect on their safety and socialisation. To me, this idea is simply not with the times. Sir Richard Branson in his book ‘Losing My Virginity’ spoke about how as a child he walked 10 miles alone and had to find his own water on the way because his mother thought it was good for his resilience. Yet these days, a child will be lucky to be allowed to walk 300 metres on their own, and I say fair enough, there are other ways to build resilience in children.
Yes, there were bad people back 20 -30 years ago, but the world has changed. These people are brash, they too are sly. I read about them almost daily, stories of children being followed walking home and asked to get in cars. The technology these days means predators can come from different angles too, something that is all too common.
Parents are busier and young people bear the brunt. There starts a vicious cycle, with the young ones growing up to be less respectful, and with ‘problems’. People (including children and teenagers) these days hide behind technology, they are becoming lazier, they are not enjoying the real world, they converse over the net and have lost the ability of conversation, they aren’t exposing themselves to real socialisation and therefore do not know how to socialise as we know it. Technology and more specifically, Social Media, gives people the confidence to say things they wouldn’t normally say to someone’s face, people hide behind their screens and let off steam, we now have the internet full of trolls or bullies, we didn’t have them in the 80’s and 90’s because there were no computers for them to hide behind. Children were protected somewhat a couple of decades ago because they didn’t have access to the internet, now they can be exposed to a myriad of horrors at an early age, including those on the streets, shopping centers, you name it. It makes me sick to my stomach. No wonder children seem to be growing up so fast and no wonder children lack creativity and imagination, they’re not getting outside to appreciate the real world.
I’m in the generation that’s seen the drastic change over the past decades, changes in crime, changes in technology, and changes in society itself. I value my childhood and am so happy with the fact that I grew up with a simpler life because I know how to appreciate the simple things and this is what I want to teach my son. Knowing what life is now, I will be protecting my child, because what I’ve seen warrants it and I do not want to regret not being protective because of being accused of ‘bubble wrapping’ my kids. Of course I will let my children make their own decisions and experience things for themselves, I will help them connect with their community, build resilience, get to know their landscape, help them learn time management and take personal responsibility, but I’m pretty sure that as a parent I can do this via safer and more responsible ways that don’t expose my child. On the positive side of technology, having mobile phones adds a bit more safety and peace of mind, but that’s it, a phone to a child should be for security. I don’t want my children to miss their childhood and develop poor social skills because they’re stuck behind a screen.
In terms of the internet, I’m still undecided on how I’m going to handle that, by the time my children are old enough to use it, it would have probably changed again and probably become even more of a breeding ground of the crazy, but it’s our way of life now and so it’s up to me to teach my kids responsible internet use and safety.
As a parent, I see myself as a teacher, protector and role model and someone my children will rely on to guide them through life. They too will learn for themselves along the way, but it is through my life experience, my knowledge, and understanding of the current world that I will fulfill these roles and do what I can to keep them safe.
How do you feel about your kids and the current world we live in?