Campaigns urging parents to ban cellphones and internet use in the bedrooms of children and teens is not new. And I’m a fan of setting limits around our kids technology use but the latest parental call to action is framed around protecting kids from online preditors and sexual exploitation.
I know sexual exploitation is real. The stats tell us that young people who are most at risk online tend to be those who are most at risk offline. So, of course, becoming familiar with the signs and working hard to keep the lines of communication open with our kids is hugely important.
This campaign, as a friend wrote, feels like ‘predator hysteria’ and I have to agree. Limiting tech access so sexual predators can’t reach our kids feels like a using a tennis racket to fend off a killer hornet. This campaign has a tinge of Reefer Madness about it, me thinks.
We need to watch out for vulnerable kids AND equip all our kids with the tools for engaging online with caution and smarts. Hell, we need to teach them to not be the predators since so often it is young people acting as cyber (sexual) bullies to oneanother. Then, even where kids have tools where creepy and/or criminal online predators are concerned, there remain lots of good, (and less sex scare-mongery) reasons to limit technology use in bedrooms.
I refuse to use scare tactics to get people to act. It might work, but I think there are better and healthier ways to shift behaviour.
As an example, it sucks to see close up images of particularly severe sexually transmitted infections. Scarying teens with horrific and unlikely cases of STIs may freak them out when they engage in sexual activity, but they will still have sex. Better to highlight how condoms and testing will make the sex they do have more worry free and so, a lot more fun.
Campaigns that attempt to scare or shame me into parenting in a certain way are far less effective than efforts that encourage me to parent in ways that are aligned with my values and beliefs. Fear and shame mostly cause me to either hide or attempt to control things and that won’t help my kids one little bit.
ps. Are you glad I didn’t post picture of advanced chlamydia?