COLUMN: Staying one step ahead


THE transition from youth to adulthood is often a bumpy road for both children and their parents.
Certainly, the measur-ing stick for when an adolescent can be considered an adult is not the same for all people nor for both sexes. For some it is the legal age of sexual consent, the age that one can legally vote, or for others it might be the first menstrual cycle or even a first sexual experience.
So we have various definitions of adulthood, which can also be influenced by how a child looks. There are 13- and 14-year-olds that look a lot older than they actually are. It is then that we realise that in as much as we may look at the physical attributes or even hear children speaking in “colourful” adult language, they are still very immature and need our guidance daily.
It is against this backdrop that I will touch briefly on the issue of privacy and personal space as it relates to children and rapidly developing social media platforms, which are likely to put our young people into some serious trouble, if we’re not vigilant.
Firstly, I believe that parents and guardians cannot bury their heads in the sand when it comes to rapidly emerging technology. Smartphones with touch screen and different applications may be intimidating for many, but knowing the inner workings could save your child’s life. We must all cast our minds back to our youth and remember the novelty of the changes we were going through and the curiosity that pervaded our minds. Young adults of today are no different.
The reality is, there are people who will use social media to stalk children and young adults who may think they are pulling a fast one on their parents. Not sharing information such as passwords, caller lists and allowing children to constantly stay on the phone or computer unsupervised is a disaster waiting to happen.
Many persons lie on their profiles to prey on young children, and children, as much as we don’t want to consider it, often lie about their profile, playing a very dangerous game of Russian roulette. The person who they may be sharing their personal information with may one day show up on your doorstep or arrange to meet at some location and never return home.
So if we go back to the question of privacy, you would see that while we must allow children to make their own mistakes, or tough love as we like to call it, we must also find a way to keep track of their daily moves.
Recently a father in the United States put out a video on social media which has gone viral, warning parents about this same issue. His rude awakening came when he received a call from a police officer in another state, telling him they had his daughter at the station. Apparently an investigative team was tracking some human traffickers, and she happened to be a lucky one that escaped their clutches. His daughter told him that she was spending the weekend with a friend and her family, who he knew personally and didn’t give it a second thought. It turns out his daughter was lying.
So his advice was to dig deep into children’s lives. While they are under your roof, you as a parent should know everything about their life, including their school friends, Internet friends and outings. Privacy has to go out the window in the interest of their own safety. We have to stay one step ahead not only of our young children, but the predators that are lurking around each corner. And if you think that these things can only happen overseas, just bear in mind that human trafficking is very real. Don’t be mistaken, there are rapists, peeping toms, pedophiles and other sexual offenders waiting on an easy target.

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