Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Safety Dance



Last night was a momentous occasion. At the age of 7 and three quarters, Max accidentally entered the world of social networking ..... and it scared the hell out of both of us.

He came home with a website address that one of his friends had given him. No stranger to my laptop ... he loaded it up with me sitting next to him, watching to make sure it was ok. He had to create his own avatar before he could get in, I watched him choose his colour and name. Loading - then suddenly on the screen, were all of these other animal avatars walking around, talking to each other. With cute little speech bubbles over their heads. They were real people. We sat, dumbfounded. Max was shy .... I typed in HI EVERYONE, and we both laughed as replies of HI and HELLO THERE! popped up all over the place. You can walk around in this land, go surfing, play games with others, earn coins to buy stuff.

I said "Max, this is really freaking me out."
"Me too mum!!! But it's the best thing I've ever seen in my whole life!"

He played it until bedtime, with questions of when he can get onto the computer again. I gave him the spiel about being "safe" online, that he needs to be careful who he chats to and come and check with me before he adds a new buddy.

Freaky.

I watched this morning as he trotted off, so happy to go to an excursion to the Sydney Opera House. I told him to behave - to be careful when he goes to the toilet.

I have safety issues around my kids using public toilets by themselves. I've heard too many horror stories. When Max is with me we just go into the parenting room, sometimes he comes in with me to the ladies. He's probably bordering on getting too old now, but once I read a terrible news report about a woman taking her seven year old to the mens toilet at the Australian Open tennis. Her young son got assaulted while she was waiting right outside for him. Right outside!

Dave is the opposite to me, and gives all of his children a lot of freedom. Oodles. He tells me to back off, that Max can ride to school, to let him live, let him go. It's tricky, knowing when to draw the line. At the caravan park last week, Dave thought it was fine to let Max go the games room, and swimming pool by himself. It made me very uncomfortable, I could do it for five minutes but kept walking up to make sure he was ok. I know child abductions and assaults are actually quite rare, statistically. But my children are not statistics, and if anyone ever harms a hair on their head I swear to God I will kill them. Kill.

Watching Max on the computer last night made me realise that in a short while, he will probably build up his own online persona. Facebook, mySpace, mobiles, twitter. All the technological things to come, for my guys. I need to keep them safe, yet still give them space.

In the meantime, my heart went warm when Max came barreling downstairs. "Mum. MUM! Can I make a new buddy?"

I'm such a terribly jaded, cynical person ... his eager innocence took my breath away.

___


THANK YOU for your wonderful birthday wishes on my last post. I read them all so many times. You are generous with your words. I only ate one measly Mars Bar yesterday! I'd still like to swill around in a champagne vat, but the feeling is losing its power. THANK YOU.
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