We are heading into the school holidays.
Whether parents are working or not, there is so much pressure on us now from the kids to let them play games, have screen-time, be online. It seems to be all they want to do, at times.
As a parent, you want them outside, having fun, connecting with people. The oddest thing to our generation and above is that our kids want to watch children doing things or playing computer games on YouTube.
It may sound really obvious, but you need to be very careful about the content on these videos. Some are innocent in that they are banal/boring, but not offensive. But they can easily be portraying violence, bad language, and/or less-than-ideal morals, that may be subtle or not so subtle.
There are many suggestions as to how to monitor what the kids are watching. There is YouTube Kids, but our boys have quickly grown out of that level of content. Ideally, screen-time should always be in an open room, not in the kids’ bedroom, with the sound on, rather than headphones, so that parents can monitor both what they are listening to and what they are watching.
The eSafety Commissioner (esafety.gov.au) has lots of good resources to help parents and young people navigate these issues, and schools do sessions on how to stay safe online.
Another big issue is that many games have settings that can allow group games – which involve playing on, with, or against other people. However, these people are no friends IRL (in real life). All you have is their username or online name, and what they tell you.
There is no way of knowing that the person you are chatting with or playing with is the 10-year-old they claim to be. They can be any age and any gender, anywhere in the world. This is how some people groom young people, and lead them to believe they are friends/nice/good people and mislead them.
The kids learn not to give their real names or any identifiable information about themselves – for example, what year they are in at school, where they live, how many siblings they have, and so on. Even small amounts of information can be pieces together to find out who they are and where they live.
It is the cyber-bullying that is really concerning. People say and do things online and over text that they would never say or do to someone in real life. People actually send messages to kids in their school telling them to kill themselves. This is hard to believe, but it really happens.
We have had enough bullying in real life, so are quite worried about what might happen online.
During lockdown, when the kids were working online, some classmates would put dislikes or angry/sad faces on their work, or comments indicating presumably they don’t like what they did. This hursts the receiver and is unkind.
There are so many different games, and they come and go in popularity, so it can be hard to keep up with them all, and to know how bad they are.
Fortnite never made it into our house – but taking a stand like this has social implications for the kids as, because so many other kids their age play it, it’s seen as uncool and unusual to not be allowed to play.
Minecraft has been around for years now and has different types – Creative, Survival, Education. The boys have made amazing creations, such as making their old school on Creative Minecraft.
There are definitely some really run games and worthwhile apps out there.
We don’t want to cut our kids off from technology, and we want them to learn how to navigate the online world – but with supervision.
Technology and online issues will be with them, as they are with us all now, for the foreseeable future.
Keeping up with the pace of change, and keeping them safe amongst it all, is an ongoing challenge, that is for sure.
2 Thessalonians 3:3 – “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”
Helen Luxford is a physician, working part-time. She is a parishioner of St Michael’s, Remuera. Together with her husband, Michael, they are raising their children in the Catholic Faith and reflecting on the challenges and joys that brings.
Reproduced with permission from the 27 December 2020 – 23 January 2021 (issue 605) edition of NZ Catholic, the national Catholic newspaper of New Zealand, published by the Catholic Bishop of Auckland.