By CARA HUNT
Tribune Features Writer
In the age of the internet and social media, just exactly how much privacy should children be allowed when it comes to online activities?
It’s a tricky situation, choosing between allowing your kids the freedom to be independent and grow, while at the same time ensuring that they aren’t getting into trouble or falling prey to scammers or predators.
Add a lockdown due to a worldwide pandemic to the mix where children automatically have to spend more time online to do school work and communicate with their friends, and that balance is even harder to strike.
This week Tribune Woman asked Bahamian moms how they deal with the issue of privacy, especially as it regards online activity and their kids.
“I have not relaxed bedtime rules or tablet time rules,” said Leslie, a mother of three kids aged four, eight and 11. “It is essential for my sanity that my kids remain on the same schedule. I enforced that during lockdown. We begin bedtime at 7.45pm and hopefully they are asleep by 8.30pm. I allow them tablet time when I am cooking dinner and that’s it; they sit at the kitchen counter while I cook so that I can keep an eye on what they are doing. My kids are not allowed to use their devices unless a parent is in the room and they are only allowed one hour a day.”
Arnette said she is an “old school” parent.
“There is no such thing as privacy in my home. You can have privacy when you pay rent or a mortgage. My son is 12 and the only time he can really close a door is when he is in the bathroom. I also have access to his electronics, his passwords and everything,” she said.
She added: “I feel like as a parent you can’t be too careful. It’s not about whether I trust him or not, it’s about being a good parent and establishing boundaries. You are a child, and so I need to know that you are not being exposed to the wrong thing.”
Maliya, mother to an 11-year-old girl, agrees.
“My daughter tried to tell me that I don’t need to have her passwords to her e-mail because ‘they’ say don’t give out personal information. I told her when ‘they’ buy the device and pay electricity and internet then you can follow that advice. I don’t think my child is up to anything negative, but things can happen; there are predators online in all forms,” she said.
“One minute your toddler can be politely watching Elmo singing songs and then the next video is ‘Elmo kills Big Bird’. That actually happened with my niece and my sister asked, ‘Why she crying?’”
Tanya, a mom of two teenagers, said that she does periodic sweeps of her kids’ rooms and phones.
“I am not doing this to be nosy, I know (my daughter) is going to want to have her conversations with her little friends, especially since she can’t see them in person. I allow her to use her phone more these days, but I scan her conversations and e-mails looking for red flags. I don’t do any deep reading, and half the time I forget what was said because she is 15, how deep could it be?
“With my son, who is 17, I feel like, yes, he may need a bit more privacy. So I knock, but I do search his room because you ain’ bringing nothing into my house I don’t know about – no drugs, no weapons; the police ain’ catching me by surprise,” she said.