THROUGH YOUNG EYES
Friday, October 4, 2019
It’s a Small, Small World
You would think smartphones and social media should have made us all closer, but sometimes connectivity can be toxic.
Seeing it Through Young Eyes
I have just seen the anti-cyberbullying ad made by 15 year old Charlotte McLaverty for Dolly’s Dream.
It is simply outstanding. I was so moved when I watched it.
Click on this You Tube link to view:
As a father of three teenage girls, the ad is a confronting reminder of the remorseless nature of digital connectivity. The victim is in the heart of her family, and they are simply unaware of what is unfolding right in front of them.
In Your Face – and No Refuge
While bullies are as old as humanity, our children have never been so easy for bullies to access and attack. Worse still, cyberbullying is often conducted in the public digital space of school peer groups. No wonder, according to the evidence, children have never been more anxious and mentally unwell.
Charlotte’s ad is such a vivid illustration of cyberbullying, it makes clear that most adults would be at a loss to cope with it, let alone children and teenagers whose frontal lobes won’t be fully developed until they are around 25 years old.
Queensland Mental Health Week An Opportunity to Share
Next week is Queensland Mental Health Week. In support of that, I ask you to watch this short ad, too – and to share it. You can also view it on Facebook by searching for Dolly’s Dream.
I was chatting to fellow parents about the challenge of managing our kids’ digital lives. This is what I heard.
Ghostly Hijinks – and not just at Halloween
One parent said how she thought she’d done everything “right”. When the time came to purchase The Phone, she warned her child that mum owned the phone and she expected to be able to view its contents at any time. She negotiated a chore for phone credits deal.
She and her son agreed about when the phone could be used and when phone use would be banned. Most importantly, they agreed which social media platforms he could join and that she would be on there watching from her phone.
And then she discovered he was on social platforms he had blocked her from.
“Oh,” said another parent, “they all build ghost profiles.”
“Ghost profiles?” I asked, stupidly. “What is that?”
Turns out it means some smart kids have one profile with their real name and innocent activity to show Mum and Dad. Then they have a ghost profile where the real activity is. I am presuming it would have a cool, alter-ego name which I – as a middle-aged dad - would have no hope of guessing.
Is there a Legislative Fix?
As a legislator, I must honestly say legislation will always lag behind what is happening in the real world, and the truth is in this arena we must always ensure we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But we have really improved the education and help available.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides a good starting point for parents. Go to www.esafety.gov.au/parents. If you prefer the phone, Parentline on 1300 301 300 provides education counselling and support. These are excellent resources.
There is also the fantastic work done by Kids’ Helpline on 1800 551 800 which provides free and confidential counselling for young people aged 5 to 25, no matter the problem.
So, Ride those Boundaries
It would be easy to feel despondent. But as parents we have a duty to protect our kids, even as they run rings around us. They are trying to navigate a very complex social world and they need our help. Not just parents – the whole village. If you are a parent, use those resources to help you help your kids.
Persist in setting rules, even if you have to adapt them. Ride the boundaries, even when that feels tough. Talk to the parents of their friends. And insist there is phone-free time. It may feel that they are being “punished”, but it is an important refuge.
Practise to Protect
If they “practise” putting the phone down often enough, they will become more comfortable doing that. They may be able to internalise it – like cleaning their teeth. Do it often enough and it becomes a good habit. Not only would that make them safer drivers, but even better parents when their turn comes.
Most of all, it may help to keep them safe. Here is the link to the ad again. Hard to believe the creator is just 15 years old.
Queensland Mental Health Week October 5 to 13, 2019.
This is a bit different from my normal report on the week’s events in Parliament but it comes from the heart, so my special thanks for reading it. If you wish to share this email, please feel free to simply forward it.
As always, if you have a comment or an issue to raise, you can simply contact me by return email. If you prefer to ring, my Emerald Office is 07 4913 1000 and the Longreach office is 07 4521 5700.
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Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.