The hidden danger
Danger. The word itself can make me shudder and create an overload of real or perceived anxiety. It also conjures up a vision of a space-traveling robot from the 1960’s show “Lost in Space”. How lucky were the Robinson’s to have a danger alerting robot?
As parents, we teach our kids to look both ways before crossing the streets. We talk to them about “stranger danger”. As mom’s, we hold their hands when we are in public and we take our boys into the women’s bathroom for as long as we can. Parent’s teach their kids to NOT talk to strangers and to never help someone find their lost puppy.
We teach our children to yell “NO” if someone tries to grab them. We enroll our children in martial arts classes so they know how to defend themselves. We talk about “being kind” and how to handle bullies. We meet their friends and the parents of said friends. Essentially, we are teaching our children how to handle any physical danger they may face…or to avoid opportunities where these dangers may exist.
But we are sorely missing something.
The monster we can’t see
The real danger isn’t in the physical threat. The real danger is in the person we cannot see. It is in the person who has unlimited access to our children without our knowledge. People all over the world have access to our children and often, we as the parents are the ones allowing the direct assess.
Take a peek at your social media. Did you post back to school pictures of your littles? Many of us do as we want to share the moment with our family and friends. However, someone scrolling social media may come across a photo of your little and zone in. When that happens, they will learn how old your child is and more often than not, they learn what school your child goes to.
Consider your next post. In it, you show your son with a valued leggo set that he has proudly built. Another post shows him riding his bike with his little brother through the neighborhood park. Now a stranger knows that your son enjoys legos and bike riding. She also knows he has a little brother.
The dangers of social media
While these posts are innocent enough, consider this. Every time you check into your favorite coffee shop, you are alerting someone that you go there often. When you check into the martial arts school, you are sending out a message that your boys are involved in taekwondo. These are two more pieces of information for a groomer to utilize when they make contact with your child.
Contact has been established and common ground has been made.
Communication is key
In the above scenario, the chances of this happening are greater than you would think. And if it occurred with my son, he probably wouldn’t even think to mention it to me. That frightens me even more. As much as we communicate, we see the world very differently and he doesn’t see dangers all around him, nor do I want him to. It’s my job to worry endlessly about his safety.
Children are easily redirected by other adults when they do not feel of value. So as parents, our job is to let our children know that we value them for who they are. We find creative ways to praise them for a job well done. We have open-ended conversations with them. We leave opportunities to grow and learn together and we teach them to safely navigate the world (both seen and unseen) while we can provide them guidance.
And as parents, we need to sensor what we share with the world on our social media. We need to know our audience and remember that while we are proud of our kids, we also need to protect them. We do that by leading by example when it comes to protecting their privacy.