Digital technology has changed everything in our lives, including parenting. A whole new set of risks faces our children, from cyberbullying to pornography, sexting to self-harm. It’s not that young people have changed, particularly; but the internet amplifies many of the risks they face already and provide new, scary forms for their expression.
The result is that parents – and teachers – can feel that children’s lives are being conducted out of reach of supervision, in a frightening new context. The main response up until now has been to focus on filters, parental controls and on monitoring what young people are doing online. We have probably all seen instructions to ‘keep the computer in the living room’ so you can see what your children are up to.
This sort of advice continues to be trotted out even by organisations with some expertise in internet safety, which really should know better. In a mobile age, it is useless at best. Even a child who doesn’t have his own smart phone is only a couple of clicks away from seeing something you’d rather he didn’t on a friend’s device in the playground.