The other day I had a realisation that my child’s friend’s mother’s friend’s sister’s neighbour had made an online parenting decision for one of my kids. Yeah, I know! Imagine being the kind of parent that goes around making online parenting decisions for kids they have never met, and quite likely never will. Outrageous, right?
Except it’s not. Because the thing is, I allowed her to. Well, I didn’t exactly mean to but ultimately it was kinda my fault. OK, it was all my fault. And before you go all judgey on me, I have a very strong feeling that you may have done the exact same thing too. Allow me to explain …
So, my kid comes home from school and says she wants to play a game online that I’ve never heard of. I say no. But she says that Jenny plays it all the time and it’s completely safe. Still I say no, but does my kid give up? Of course, she doesn’t. Instead she ups her game and moves onto the next level. Apparently, Jenny’s mother has no problem with it so why do I? It’s a fair question.
Now, she knows that I know Jenny’s Mum, and she also knows that I know there’s no way Jenny’s Mum would allow her daughter to be online playing an unsafe game. (Still with me? Good.) She’s a fine, upstanding, sensible, grounded, responsible individual (who also likes a few glasses of wine from time to time, and is a great laugh on a night out. Don’t want you to think she’s a total bore.) I think to myself, maybe the game is fine.
In normal circumstances, I’d spend a bit of time researching the game myself but it’s mid-week and I’m busy. (Who isn’t? We’re parents.) So, I decide to trust Jenny’s Mum’s judgement. I’m sure she must have done the research. Wouldn’t make sense if she hadn’t. I turn to my daughter and say yes, sure, why not?
But that night, I wake up with a sinking feeling that maybe Jenny’s Mum didn’t do the research. And that maybe she said yes to Jenny for the same reasons I just said yes to my daughter. Not because she knew that everything was safe, but because someone else told her so. Like maybe one of her friends. Who may have heard the same from one of her sisters. Who may have been told the same by her neighbour.
And that’s when I realise that I have allowed a long chain of assumptions to lead to my child’s friend’s mother’s friend’s sister’s neighbour making an online parenting decision for my kid. See? It’s easily done.
And then I start to wonder how often I’ve done that in the past. Once or twice? More than that? Possibly (gulp) very often?? I mean, do I let my son play with his friends online because I think it’s fine or because his friends’ parents do? Did my middle child’s best friend’s Mum thoroughly check out that website her and her friends adore or did she just read one scant review online? I mean, where does it all end?
Who’s making your online parenting decisions? Someone you've never met or KidsSafetyNet?