I am guilty of giving in to my obedient, cooperative 12-year-old who does her chores cheerfully. "Everyone has musical.ly, Mum!' I added it and set up my own account and befriended her so I could monitor her. We checked the 'privacy' settings and googled the feedback and set rules about being in school uniform etc. The 13+ age restriction is standard on social media platforms and we talked about how it was a privilege to use it 8 months before she turns 13.
How naive I was!
But with all new apps, less than a week old, none of the warnings were available yet and the loopholes and add-on apps were not clear yet.
I failed my daughter miserably and am ashamed that I modelled blatant disregard for the law. I wouldn't allow her behind the wheel of my car! But lying about her age to download a seemingly harmless, popular app is giving her the keys to my car or buying alcohol for her for Schoolies aged 17. My daughter didn't see me bending the rule in order for her to follow the crowd. She saw me breaking the law.
I got a message from her after she listened to Susan McLean at school and told me that she deleted musical.ly as she is not safe on it and that she is not doing the right thing. "Sorry, Mum." I should be the one apologising to HER!
I went to listen to Susan McLean at the parent session and realised now, more than ever, that I have to step up as a parent. What I found mind-shifting was not what YOUR child might be doing on any given app but what that app gives your child access to. What OTHER people are exposing your child to. They can not unsee images or videos. They mirror behaviour as they assume that it is normal behaviour. Innocence can be wiped out in a blink of an eye. We watched a few UK child safety videos. The UK Police CEOP youtube channel is amazing.
Susan did not discuss the suicide, self-harm or eating disorder aspects with our children but we saw the gory evidence. Now more than ever I need to step up my vigilance and reinforce our 'no devices' in bedrooms policy. We are adding 'no devices' out of our sight and adding 'shoulder surfing'.
Remember to check with the school about IT requirements. It became clear that a Year 6 student knew how to circumvent the filter at school and had musical.ly on their laptop. Just because an app is on their system or they are on youtube on their laptop, does not mean the school has allowed it. It means another child at school gave your child the tool to break the rules. Your child may have shared this with other students. Just because my child says the school allows it, does not mean it is true. Please send the help desk or your child's teacher a quick email to verify.
We have to partner with the school to keep our kids safe. We live in a dangerous online world with creeps CONSTANTLY working to find loopholes. I helped those creeps a few steps closer to my child by dropping the ball and letting her onto a social media app before she is 13. I pray she realises that staying off those forever is a much better idea! I pray I can model healthy social media behaviour.
Thank you King's for bringing people into our lives who can show us the pitfalls. I was reminded that I am the parent and realised that I am not paying school fees for teachers to parent my treasures. We need to work together to raise digitally smart and responsible human beings.