The is­sue of chil­dren and In­ter­net use is a tough one

West Sussex Gazette - - COUNTRYFIL­E - With Blaise Tapp

If there re­ally is such a thing as in­for­ma­tion over­load then I am suf­fer­ing from it. Right here, right now. No­body, ever, has said that par­ent­ing is easy but the thun­der­storms of doom and con­fu­sion that swirl around the is­sue of chil­dren and In­ter­net use is mak­ing it all the more dif­fi­cult for mil­lions of al­ready men­tally fraz­zled mums and dads.

For the past fort­night or so, we have been bom­barded with a seem­ingly end­less suc­ces­sion of head­lines about the per­ils of young so­cial me­dia ob­ses­sives, mainly teenagers, who have been pushed to the brink and be­yond.

In­sta­gram, the so­cial me­dia plat­form of choice for Kar­dashi­ans, Z-list wannabes and peo­ple who want to use a fancy fil­ter to make their steak and kid­ney pie din­ner look more ap­petis­ing, has been very much in the fir­ing line. We have, sadly, now all heard about Molly Rus­sell, the 14-yearold, whose fa­ther be­lieves that her tragic death in Novem­ber 2017 was partly down to the fact that she viewed graphic con­tent re­lat­ing to self harm, sui­cide and anx­i­ety.

Ian Rus­sell’s re­lent­lessly high pro­file pur­suit for an­swers as to why his out­wardly happy daugh­ter would find her­self in such a dark place has caused gen­uine shock­waves within an in­dus­try which has pre­vi­ously ap­peared al­most im­per­vi­ous to im­pas­sioned pleas. Fol­low­ing the me­dia pres­sure, cou­pled with Gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion, In­sta­gram has taken steps to re­move neg­a­tive con­tent, such as that show­ing poor souls self harm­ing.

The fact is, it shouldn’t have taken the zeal of a griev­ing dad for a so­cial me­dia plat­form to take the steps that char­i­ties and cam­paign groups have been ask­ing them to take for many years.

Dur­ing the un­for­giv­ing flurry of sto­ries that have ap­peared in print, on­line and on the air­waves, par­ents like this one have had lit­tle choice but to sit up and take no­tice of the fierce de­bate.

Put sim­ply, it is ter­ri­fy­ing be­cause this gen­er­a­tion of par­ents are pi­o­neers but are woe­fully un­pre­pared for the chal­lenges that lap­tops, tablets and smart­phones bring, due to our own dire lack of ex­pe­ri­ence in the mat­ter. Both of my chil­dren love gad­gets and they are al­lowed to watch age ap­pro­pri­ate drivel on sites such as YouTube, but they do it within the reach of at least one par­ent.

My nine-year-old is ab­so­lutely des­per­ate for her very own phone and, thus far, we have been res­o­lute in our re­sis­tance to this, with vague ‘promises’ that she might get one for her next birth­day, if she be­haves her­self.

Is 10 too young for a child, who doesn’t re­ally go any­where un­less she is in the com­pany of an adult, to have a phone? It seems to make some sense for young­sters to have a bog stan­dard mo­bile, es­pe­cially as 10 and 11-year-olds are tak­ing the first ten­ta­tive steps to­wards in­de­pen­dence but then there is a de­bate about whether pre­teens should be given a smart­phone. I have heard ex­perts say that chil­dren should not be given un­su­per­vised ac­cess to the in­ter­net un­til they are at least 14, while my peers share widely dif­fer­ing views.

I have met chil­dren who have had their own In­sta­gram ac­count since the age of

11, de­spite the fact the age min­i­mum limit is 13.

Pester power and ju­ve­nile ob­fus­ca­tion are win­ning the day in many a house­hold across the UK, sim­ply be­cause many par­ents just haven’t got a clue about how to deal with this grow­ing men­ace.

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