Thursday 19 January 2017

Internet safety and protecting children online

So what are your thoughts around internet safety and protecting the privacy of children online? Photo of child on phone Instagram

I've been prompted by a few events this week to revisit this issue, having touched on it a little before in my post To Blog or Not To Blog. A very tech-savvy mum (who writes a fab blog over at Who's the Mummy?) expressed her exasperation with children her daughter's age (same age as our eldest) using Instagram in a way it wasn't intended, to shame and bully other children. I echoed her sentiments and it prompted me to sit down and talk about Instagram and social media in general again with our daughter. 

Then on Facebook I came across the video from Leicestershire police about Kayleigh Heywood. So extremely heartbreaking but scarily easy to see how it happened. Again, I shared this with our older daughter and talked through the issues. Next I read a great post from Joy at The Sensory Seeker which has helpful advice about how to keep children safe online, and then I received an invite to an e-safety evening talk at school. I am planning to attend the talk, whilst desperately hoping it will cover more than the basics. One such talk I've been to before was plainly just a scare tactic to say we should keep young children off social media. 

As a blogger, I've had to learn a lot about the internet and social media over the past seven years, and I've shared as much of that knowledge as possible with our eldest. Some of it has been relevant to Sasha too, particularly when it comes to YouTube, and I'm aware that I still have much to do and learn in order to keep on educating them and keep them safe. I do have concerns about children being online generally, an issue which simply wasn't there to the same extent when we were growing up. However, I don't think we can just ignore them, pretend they don't exist and ban our children from using all gadgets. There has to be a happy medium somewhere. 

Watching, and listening, and learning alongside our children has never been more important. Back on Facebook (yes, it's true my life is full of social media) I read another couple of posts written by autistic adults, suggesting that parents should not share stories about their children with disabilities online. One of them had in the title 'it's a fine line between awareness raising and shaming'. This has been shared by others with comments including the suggestion that any parents who write about their child with disabilities are effectively abusing them. 

Quite harsh, wouldn't you say? I'm well aware that not everyone agrees with the idea of blogging and going public with our story, although nobody has actually said that to my face yet. It's just a feeling you get, you know? I do share some of the concerns which are raised in the posts mentioned above though. There's a feeling that parents are giving away too much information about their children with disabilities, when they are unable to decide for themselves if they wish for that information to be shared. To be fair, this could be true of any mother blogging about her younger children. Deciding what information to share, and when definitely involves a tricky thought process and is not to be taken lightly.

My own view on it is that if I only shared the positives, people wouldn't be getting a balanced picture of our experiences. That could actually be doing Sasha an injustice in the long run, as there would be less understanding of the challenges and differences. 

This story for now is mine to tell, and when Sasha wants to read and understand more then I will be talking her through the premise of it (somehow I doubt she's going to want to read everything I've written over the past seven years!). She may want me to delete the blog, and of course I will do that for her if she chooses. On the other hand, she may want to write her own story, and I'd do my best to guide her through that. I did talk with our eldest at length about my blog before she started secondary school, and she was adamant that she was happy for me to continue writing about her. If that ever changes, I will of course listen to her wishes too. 

In her brilliant post 'how to blog about your children whilst protecting their privacy', Yvonne (who has written the Special Parents Handbook) eloquently discusses this subject. My views pretty much align with hers. There's a very helpful 'Do and Don't' list which I'll try to remember to read periodically. I'm so grateful that Yvonne is out there amongst health practitioners, reminding them that each parent's experience is our own story to tell, and that it is important for our children that we continue to tell it. It most definitely is NOT abuse.

I always appreciate with constructive criticism though, so if you ever read anything on this blog which makes you feel uneasy, please do let me know. Thank you.

Cuddle Fairy

One Messy Mama

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