I never thought I’d be writing this. I’ve always been someone who’s erred more on the side of “it never did me any harm.” I actually feel slightly old writing this – sounding a little more like my dad each day.
But, I do believe kids access too much.
I remember my friends talking about Eminem’s album, The Marhsall Mathers LP back in… 2000? I was at primary school at the time and really wanted my own copy. We saw it whilst out one day and my dad told me I could buy it, but I had to wait until I was 11 to listen to it. He listened to it first, made me promise I wouldn’t listen to it with my brother (who’s younger than me), and I suspect even then he didn’t really want me to have it – I can’t remember if I waited until I was 11 to listen to it or not. Needless to say, I’m not sure it was entirely appropriate for an eleven year old all the same, even one who was pretty mature – but it never did me any harm.
I also remember watching Ali G and Austin Powers as a kid. Perhaps something that most parents at the time would’ve been slightly shocked that a child had seen. We had a Playstation and owned the first ever Grand Theft Auto (GTA) game.
But it never did me any harm.
I always knew what was appropriate and what I shouldn’t be repeating. I knew when I’d heard something, or seen something, that I shouldn’t be sharing at school or with the other kids I knew. However, most of it were things I knew were ‘bad’, but didn’t know what they really meant.
Though, when I was growing up we didn’t have the internet. Eventually we got online, but it wasn’t something that we really ever used; the dial tone, slow speeds and instant cut off when the phone rang meant that it was essentially a waste of time. If I wanted to find out what some of that ‘bad stuff’ meant I had to ask my parents. And, of course, they’d filter out some things that they knew I shouldn’t know, or phrase it in a more appropriate way. There’s a funny anecdote about my dad likes to tell about defining a word I’d asked about as: “when someone sells their love to another person.”
I worry that kids nowadays can access more and more freely. And the internet has a huge part in this.
The more and more time I spend with kids, the more I think they access too much. I sometimes spend my lunchtime eating with the kids, or listening to their conversations at breaks and it’s scary to think what they’ll know now that I didn’t when I was the same age. It’s also a bit of a worry to me that they can hop online and watch videos of 18+ games and films, even if they don’t own them. Things like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Geordie Shore (etc, etc) aren’t made for the eyes and ears of primary school kids who can hop online and Google some of the things that they don’t understand. Heck, googling a slightly dodgy term can pull up some really shocking results.
Not only that, but Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (and any other social networking site you want to name) aren’t made for kids. Again, I’m not slating parents who let their children sign up for sites like this, provided they’re properly monitored, set up privately, and used together. Random requests come in to my accounts regularly, and I’ll be honest: I don’t know who some of the folks are. Thankfully, I’m an adult, switched on, and won’t be accepting them. I’d wager, at age 7 I would’ve just clicked accept. Scary to think that some of the kids in my class use social networking sites at home, and could be speaking to anyone in the world, about anything. And all I can do about it is keep an ear on the ground, and educate about how to use the web safely.
It never did me any harm. But I’m sure it could’ve done.