I know you’re all tired of seeing that nightmarish face with the inhumanly stretched grin and large, unblinking eyes. I can’t even open Facebook without seeing Momo staring directly into my soul. As a mother of a 9-year-old son, Momo is more than just a creepy face. It strikes fear in a very real place.
That’s because my son is connected.
He has a Kindle, on a Playstation, on a Chromebook. His friends are also pretty tech-savvy. They all talk, share, view, and game together. I sometimes feel I’m fighting a losing battle when it comes to censorship.
He started using devices at a young age. My son mastered my cell phone by the age of three and had his own Kindle by the time he was five. It was loaded with educational apps and streaming services like PBS Kids and Disney Junior.
We didn’t introduce YouTube until a little later. Even then, I was a helicopter mom. I’d have him watch his videos where I could see and hear them. I’d check his recently viewed history. I felt like I was doing my part to make sure he was watching age-appropriate videos.
As he got older, he soon had devices and games that connect him not only to the internet, but to other people. Strangers. He started playing Minecraft and Fortnite. I’m always leery of online predators, so we avoided the chatting feature of those games, even before the news stories of Fortnite’s infiltration by predators.
Now, my four-year-old daughter is starting to be more connected with a tablet of her own and a craning neck, spying on her brother’s screen.
Both my kids are at risk to the dangers of connectivity.
When I was younger and a child would get snatched on the street, parents would gasp at the reality that kids are no longer safe on the playground or in their own neighborhoods. Now, with technology allowing our children to stay close and game within the safety of their own homes, they’re still being targeted in more ways than one.
Avoiding our tendency to give in to fear and the hype of these heinous news stories isn’t easy. There really are children getting groomed by faceless fiends. Innocent minds are being corrupted by a sinister challenge. But, I cannot allow the possibility of “what if” to balloon over my life and consume my children. I refuse to put them in a bubble or deny them technology.
What do I do instead? Talk. Always talk. Never stop talking.
I interrupt my son while he’s watching videos to ask him what they’re about. He tells me what he’s doing on his device before he does it. I look over his shoulder. In the middle of his game, I’ll check in. We talk about the things he sees and hears and does. I am always in the know and always alert.
Let’s be honest, these stories of Momo are haunting. But we have to admit, to some extent, the stories are bloated in the name of news and trending. While the dangers are still out there, a great deal of the danger comes from lack of communication.
If we tell our children what to look out for, what to avoid, and when to say something, the possibility of any real and lasting danger decreases. While I don’t enjoy bringing Momo to my son’s attention, leaving him in the dark is far more damaging than opening his eyes to it.
So, we talked about it.
I asked him questions, he asked me questions. We came to an understanding. This was enough to give me peace of mind. Does this mean I’ll stop hovering? Not a chance. But it certainly helps put me at ease.
The dangers are out there, there’s no doubt about that. But with vigilance, honesty, and communication, my kids can enjoy the fruits of their generation the right way.
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