Regular readers know my daughter G is now a first grader at junior high school. G has been asking me since the past summer whether she might open a Twitter account. It took a while before I gave her a green light for this. She didn’t get it why it took me about 3 months to decide for it. She found it contradictory since I work in the communication field. I develop online communication strategy for a living. And I am omnipresent online with various social media accounts I maintain. But this is just the real reason why I didn’t allow her to be on Twitter immediately. I know the risks well and want to protect her.
G is a digital native. She was born after digital technology was introduced. Digital natives blend their online life with their offline life. G is the one who uses our iPad the most at home. She plays, does her homework, looks at the (makeup, craft and interior) tutorials on YouTube on it. She really blends her offline and online life effortlessly. For example G can’t understand why her grandparents (my parents in law) book their holiday through a travel bureau. She doesn’t know better that we book our holiday (flight and traint ticket, accommodation and entries to touristic attractions) online with a tablet on our lap.
Fun, inspiring social media
About two and a half-year ago G started her Facebook account in order to be able to open a Pinterest account. At that time Pinterest was accessible by invitation only. We agreed she would keep her Facebook account protected. She has our family members here and in Indonesia and her school friends on it. Her Pinterest account however is open as I saw no harm in it. It stimulates her creativity and it seems innocent. It is interesting to follow her boards and see what she pins. She’s doing good there.
Last year she asked me if she might open a Path account. Profiles in Path are protected by default so it was not a problem, permission granted. But then she has gotten interested in Instagram and Twitter. Her argument is everyone she knows from her age is on those social networks.
Wide, scary online world
You all know how cruel people can be online. It comes partly by the anonymity on the net. There are many cases of teen suicides because of cyber bullying like Rebecca Ann Sedwick, Hannah Smith or a murder like Joyce Hau. Those cases scare the hell out of me. In her tender age I believe it is my duty as her parent to protect her from the scary online world. But then I gave this a thought and discussed it with my husband. That G is a digital native is a fact. We have to guide her and stand by her when she needs us. Since she had started her Facebook account she asked me NOT to post pictures of her in a bikini to prevent cyber bullying which I respect. What did my husband and I do and are going to do about G’s presence online? We made some agreements: mum and dad know her password and are able to access all accounts. Whenever a troll appears on her timeline, she must warn us.
A bit preoccupied I saw a notification this morning on my Twitter account which said G is following me now. Raising a digital native is not easy but my parents also had their own concerns raising me when I was a teen back then.