REMEMBER when you were a teenager and you lied to your parents about your whereabouts because you were probably doing something you shouldn’t have been doing?
Meeting up with your boyfriend/girlfriend? Hanging out with that crowd you were warned about?
These deceptions are common and are part of the intrinsic nature of being young and exploring boundaries.
If you take a second to reflect on those times where you yourself were dishonest and took risks as a teen, it will serve as a great utensil to understand what I’m about to share with you.
As adults, we’ve become atune to assessing the dangers of the world to protect our children.
‘Don’t touch that, it’s hot’ or ‘be careful or you’ll fall’ and ‘don’t speak to strangers’ etc.
We become the safety police to the point of repetition, while maturing and burying our younger more careless selves and consigning that part of us to history.
Kids (especially teens) are inquisitive about danger. Remember?
They see through the mundane safety net put in place by you and yearn for the grandiose applause of their peers. The ‘I know better’ attitude is what reminds us parents that we can never be too careful, to the point of being ‘uncool’.
What I’ve just said isn’t new: you probably knew what I was going to say before I actually said it.
So why write this article? Why waste your time stating the obvious?
Here’s something you might not know.
This curious nature of teenagers as they find their way in this world with your guidance isn’t what it used to be – the landscape has changed in a very big way and not for the better.
The consequences of such boundary pushing now have implications that could follow them for the rest of their lives.
Case in point: Recently I was approached by a couple who stumbled across some red flags regarding their child’s internet use.
After initial analysis, it became clear that this child had been groomed for at least a year to the point where she had begun to see exploitative sexual behaviour on camera as something that was normal.
Yes. You read that right. On camera.
I’ve been raising awareness and hunting online sex offenders for a few years now, so I know a thing or two about how these cretinous sewer dwellers work. And they may be more active than ever at the moment, as more children and teenagers are indoors during the lockdown and spending more time online.
It starts by them ‘liking’ a picture posted online, or they send a seemingly friendly message to their inbox.
And our kids, who have been raised to talk more through text more than any other medium, may see it as harmless, and why wouldn’t they? This guy seems nice, his profile seems legit and what harm can come from this, anyway? It’s not like he’s right here in front of me.
Next he’ll pay her a compliment because, remember, her photos are available for everyone to see. ‘Aren’t you beautiful?’ he’ll say. Or something similar.
Now at this point we would all shout at the top of our lungs that this would never happen to our children, they know better, they’re street smart, savvy, on point, wise beyond their years.
The same way you used to think that you knew better. Remember?
She replies: ‘Oh thanks, that’s an old pic lol, what you up too.’
The conversation will continue after this, and will, to her, seem very genuine and at times mundane or boring, so why raise it with anyone like mum or dad?
He’s just a nice guy who wants to chat. Right?
These monsters know that they must bide their time and build a relationship to earn the child’s trust to then manipulate them for their sick and twisted gratification. This is, by definition, grooming.
It’s not a short, sharp shock: it’s a long-winded coercion that can take weeks and sometimes months of manipulation before it exposes its true, ugly, predatory and sadistic colours.
And unfortunately, nine times out of ten, our kids (regardless of parenting or upbringing) just don’t have the tools or life experience to see what’s really going on here.
And, let’s be honest with ourselves, neither would we have had at that age. Remember?
A compliment from somebody older while your hormones are governing 90% of your life along with the famous ‘I know better attitude’ is a guaranteed recipe for disaster on every level.
I don’t blame the kids for being kids, nor do I think their curiosity is anything but a natural process of growing. They are not to blame here.
They’ve done nothing wrong, and neither have you (the parent).
The only ones to blame here are those that spend hours attempting to coerce and steal the innocence we spend every waking moment trying to preserve.
This isn’t a simple ‘check your kids’ devices’ write-up. It’s more than that.
It has to be approached from different angles where your honesty and humility might make the difference that’s needed.
You were a teen once upon a time, you knew how to get what you wanted and you were using all the tools that were available to you to reach those shortsighted goals that usually didn’t make it past the weekend.
Go back there every now and then and approach online safety with this new perspective.
I promise it will make a difference.