It eats up your time, you procrastinate with it, you commiserate with it, you celebrate with it. Where once my mid- ah… young-adult crisis move to Tassie would have completely separated my life from that of my friends in NSW, now I follow along their loves and losses, their moves, their careers and their off colour jokes. Sophie from The Mother Load posted this week about social media and our kids. How much is too much? And if they’re using too much, what the heck do you do about it?
By the time I was 3 (yes, back at the dawn of this personal computer thing) my dad who is a total technophile, had a commador64 in the living room. It had precisely one game on it for kids, and you had to be able to program in basic to use it. So I did. It involved solving simple math problems and watching a little tractor building a bridge. If you flubbed it, a little bi-plane came out and bombed your bridge back to the stone age! After a few weeks, my Nanna thought I might be having some kind of learning problem… I seemed to be going backwards! I’d been able to answer all the questions the week before, but suddenly that little biplane was bombing the crap out of my bridge. My father watched closely for a few minutes, laughed his arse off at told Nanna not to worry. I was doing it on purpose, I must just like watching the bridge blow up.
I met and fell in love with the biggest nerd I’ve ever met (after me). In our living room there are three desktop computers (mine, his, and my fathers) as well as the computer we built to run the TV. Then there is my lap top. My dad’s. My tablet. My husbands. Plus a little toy laptop Oma got for my eldest, who is 5. She’s completely unimpressed. We didn’t have the heart to tell Oma that DD5 is technologically proficient enough to log onto a computer, call up the browser in which her fav online games are saved (along with all the youtube vids we’ve found together that are cleared for her viewing, she’s not able to surf on her own, Youtube can go bad on you real fast!) She can choose one from the list, one she’s never played before, listen to the instructions, and follow them. When she’s done, she shuts everything off and tucks in the chair. We’re perfectly comfortable with this, mostly because, for the time being at least, we’re still smarter than her.
“890″ he pauses. “B. L. U” Pause again. “E. S. T” waits. “O. N. E”*
No one will type in a password for her anymore. She has to find the right letters and numbers and type them in. We used to give her each character individually, but we’ve moved up to groups of three. In another week or two we’ll probably start trying for groups of four or more, the idea eventually to get her to type in a WORD rather than characters from the keyboard. The passwords are changed regularly so she can’t just learn the pattern (*also, the above is bollox, in case you were wondering and wanted to steal my account info, which is probably worth about $3.60 if you were wondering.)
I understand when people talk about the ‘clean slate’ of their children. They’re born beautifully innocent, perfectly secure in themselves and ready to take on the world, but I have to admit that my desire to keep my girls that way is pretty minimal if I’m honest. Babies and little kids are lovely, but I’m not raising babies and little kids, I’m raising people. Fully rounded, intelligent, experienced (stubborn, willful and too smart for my own bloody good sometimes) people… and they’re going to know things that aren’t necessarily nice. That aren’t pretty and beautiful. Sophie said it best…
I’m sure in a nutshell it simply comes down to the age, sensibility, perceived maturity of each child and what their parent/s believe they can handle responsibly.
So true, and I honestly believe the trick, like taxes in the US is to pay early and often. When they start talking and learning, show them a game about counting or a song about the alphabet. When they start learning to write and read, a keyboard is GREAT for learning because QWERTY isn’t the order in which they learned the letters, they actually have to know them. As Talie gets older she’ll get help from mum and dad (and a poppy who is still a mad keen technophile) to use the computer for research. Initially offline with programs like Encarta and encyclopedia Britannica, then later once she’s got a good grip on that kind of thing we’ll move out into the somewhat more turbulent waters of surfing the net for the info she needs.
Once my girls get out from under me, they are going to find things. Things I might wish weren’t there, things that if I had my way wouldn’t BE there… but they are, and I promise you they’ll find them. The only thing I can do about that is to make sure that when my girls get out of my line of sight, when they inevitably surpass my technical skills (It’ll happen, any adult who thinks it wont is kidding themselves), when that slightly dodgy friend invites them to ‘come look at this’… I have to have made sure that they’re strong enough, intelligent enough and experienced enough to deal with that. Sure I hope they’ll come talk to me about it (I was that weird kid who talked to her dad about everything, so I’m probably a lot more hopeful on that score than I have a right to be), I hope that they’ll always be comfortable enough to come to me with anything… but I also realize that eventually, they’re going to do/see/say something that they really don’t want me to know about.
In the end, the internet is an environment. I teach my girls to swim, to have road sense, to test the limb before they put their weight on it, and in the exact same way I’ll teach them about passwords, identity theft, the illusion of anonymity and the various other dangers of that environment. We tend to put a very different emphasis on learning about these kinds of things, but I don’t think kids do. To them, what is the difference between learning about road safety and learning about online security? It’s things mum and dad teach me to help me be safe, and like dealing with a road, you break them to it at the pace they’re ready for and stretch them just enough that on the day when they have to cross on their own, it’s not so big and scary a deal. ‘Don’t be a troll’ and ‘don’t throw sand at that other kid’… are basically the same instruction.
If you’re not offended enough by my stance on that one, you might want to check out my position on Guns as toys from little while ago (for which not one person abused me, and I thought I was going to die!)