I attended a meeting of the 19th Circuit Court Family Coordinating Council yesterday (minor peeve: organization names that sound like they support that which they exist to prevent/eradicate). In addition to updating us about what the various committees are doing, we had a discussion on possible symposium topics.
Part of the discussion centered around the “tools” parents need to raise their children “safe”, but in thinking about it I think that there is a greater need for “tools” kids need to grow up “safe”. Granted there would be considerable overlap, but unless we target the information at kids it may not get to them and they might not listen to it if it does. Targeting this toward kids certainly makes sense in the context of family violence in its many forms (along with ineffectual parenting and other parenting problems, which exist for a variety of reasons). Society has changed (in case you missed it or are too young to have seen the before) and I don’t mean from the artificial “Leave It To Beaver” world people mistakenly think existed in the past. But I do agree with one of the other folks at the meeting who said kids lack people to talk to, confide in, and get decent information and advice from (particularly in the setting of family violence, e.g. spouse/partner violence or child abuse in its many forms).
People tend to demonize the Internet and social networking sites in particular, but the reality is that we are becoming more Internet centered. Is the Internet an asset (my position) or a “trap” where predators lurk at every turn? I think it can help remedy a fair share of the social isolation we experience today (although real human contact is essential and can not be replaced), particularly kids from “problem” homes or those with other “reasons” for their isolation. Kids need others to talk to, even if they have the most ideal parents. They need peers and mentors to learn not to take risks, not to make bad choices, and to learn alternatives to those actions (or inactions). We need to teach kids how to use the social networking sites, and other Internet resources, while at the same time patrolling them just as we do our streets and malls to make certain that they are safe places. Used properly these sites can be sources of support, good information, socialization, and “life skills” learning.
Don’t ban these sites, make sure that they live up to their potential and make sure kids know how to use them “properly”. Making good choices and not take chances extends to the cyber-world as well.
What other “tools” do kids and/or parents need? Let me think…