Do you know where your children are?
When I was a preteen, there was a public service announcement that would come on every evening around 9 p.m. and ask that very question. I thought it strange since I was usually at home, in my parents’ bedroom, in my pyjamas, watching TV. Of course they knew where I was — they always knew where I was.
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Now, as a parent, I see just how important it is to always be in tune — and attuned — to your children. Of course it’s impossible to know where they are at all times, but it’s imperative to have some sort of clue.
And not just where they’re at physically, but what they’re actually doing. In your own home it’s easier to control what your children watch on television, what they do on the Internet, what books or magazines they’re reading. But outside of the home, how do parents supervise their children’s activities?
According to Cathy Wing, an educator with Media Awareness Network based in Ottawa, and a parent herself, parents need to have a handle on what their children do in their free time. And in today’s world of technology, that usually involves the Internet in some way.
Parents have the responsibility of checking out the sites their children frequent, watching the shows their children enjoy and listening to the music on their kids’ iPods. It’s not about being hip or cool, it’s about sharing and being able to discuss the lives that your children are living.
In this technological age, where even the simplest things can be broadcast to millions, our children need to understand the implications of their actions. For example, at one time it was about a note passed in class from one student to another, that could get intercepted and read by a third party; but today it’s about a text message sent via cellphone which can be accidentally — or purposefully — sent to hundreds.
Although each generation becomes more media savvy than the last, that’s no excuse for parents to be ignorant, or to wash their hands of their responsibilities. It all boils down to the same basic principles, whether online or not: As parents, it’s our duty to teach our children right from wrong, anger management, morals and values, respect for others, how to develop good judgment, and overall decent behaviour.
Although it may not be obvious, children enjoy sharing what they’ve learned with their parents. Take some time to let your child introduce you to his or her interests — music, television, websites, books, movies — whatever.
Knowing where your children are, physically and mentally, is not only your parental obligation, it’s a privilege. Take advantage and get involved — you’ll be surprised at how your relationship will improve.