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January 22, 2019

Stop stalking your children online

I must admit that I am anything but techno savvy but I do love the smartphones. I can’t get over the fact that they can do almost anything: a computer, phone, diary and calendar rolled up in one. Not to mention the fact that I can download games and myriad free books. Amazing the feats that one little gadget can accomplish. I remember eons back while in campus and the teacher was trying to explain the concept of a world wide web. It sounded like witchcraft and few of us in the class could really understand what she was talking about.

Those were the days computers used to be put in a cold room and had screen protectors for your eyes because the wordings were all in luminous green against a black background. The only game available then was Pokémon – a silly game about a little man who went around eating some dots. The closest thing to a mobile phone then was a pager and all dates were arranged via land lines or telephone booths. I remember dozing in class that day figuring out that whatever the teacher was talking about was something that would only be useful for those intended to work for Nasa.

Truth be told, I still don’t understand fully the intricacies of this computer era but being a user I admit that the technology advancement has sure made life more convenient. The only thing about the smartphone that bores me is that every so often in order to enjoy its facilities you must recharge the battery. If you don’t then nothing works. This is true for all smartphones but it is also true for relationships, more so those of parents and their children.

I can do all manner of things for my children but every so often I must take time to show them how much they mean to me, to refill their little love tanks. The truth be told this is not always easy or convenient. A couple of days back I sat in a meeting of teenagers and was surprised to discover that I had stepped into my parent's shoes. Sure the setting was different, the clothes different but the sentiments remained the same: Our parents are either control freaks or unavailable. Luckily for me, my son was not in the meeting but I could imagine his contribution nonetheless and that made me pause. In my quest to be a good parent and provider, was I being overbearing or unavailable? I realized I needed to tone down some.

Back to the phone, I learnt to my peril that keeping the phone connected to the power source for too long was not a great idea because it messed up the battery. Once full, I needed to remove the phone from the source and allow the battery to do its work. The same is true for my boys. I have a responsibility to teach and admonish, but there comes a time when I must also let them go to practise what they have been taught. Trailing them on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc, in other words being all over their cyber space not to mention their physical space, is truly tempting but not the best way to go about it. As parents there is the real fear of predators getting to our children; but once more we need to empower them to self protect and to believe we have done a good job of laying the foundation for communication should they face any eventualities. A task that is easier said than done. I remember once asking my mom if she was proud that she had raised well-adjusted children. She smiled and said: “Carole, am still raising my children. Parenting never stops.” So true!

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