Children, The Web And Social Media.

Our Teens the battle of the web and social media:

The bell rings and the school day finishes. The pupils grab their bags and dash for the door. School bags slung on to their backs and a race for the exit to freedom. Suddenly the cackling of teenage voices is overpowered by beeps and ringtones. Heads drop to the mobile devise screen and fingers work furiously typing out life or death communications, the world might be coming to an end. Phones are lifted and pictures are recorded as proof and uploaded and sent to the command centre. I watch in awe as I am bewildered how this new form of human can cross the road with their head down and miraculously, the various methods of transport manage to stop or swerve and no fatalities are reported.

Dr Seuss, author of The Cat in The Hat
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Of course our teens love to go online, I wish it had been invented when I was in secondary school. The Internet is a source of information and can be used as an educational tool. The social media tools can be an asset to maintain and develop supportive relationships. They can help our teens to form their identities, through self-expression, learning and communicating. When utilised correctly they promote a sense of belonging and self-esteem. Most of us adults know how to behave in society, what is right/wrong, acceptable or not? We are generally good citizens and neighbours and so are our teens! Unfortunately those standards slip when we become digital citizens!

Zeeko ( an Irish EdTech start-up which works to educate parents to teach their children to stay safe online has published results of its second School Digital Trend Report. 4,439 primary school pupils completed a questionnaire about their Internet use in 29 schools between September and November 2016. In addition Zeeko asked 913 guardians of primary school pupils in 55 schools between January and June 2016 to complete a similar questionnaire.

Key findings include the extensive use of mobile devices by primary school children, (86% have access to a smart phone, tablet or iPod); the seemingly younger ages at which children say they have open access to the internet (on average 1st class students first went online at 4.9 years old vs. 6th class students first went online at 7.6 years old); and the rise of SnapChat which has taken over Instagram as the most popular social media app with 45% of 6th class pupils now using SnapChat.

 There is a difference between using the Internet and using social media. The Internet can provide a platform of lots of educational tools to assist our children’s learning needs. Yes there is a vast amount of inappropriate material available on the web but thankfully there are tools provided for us to implement to ensure our child never has to see those dark pages. As parents or guardians it is our responsibility to implement those safe guards to protect our youngsters. Social media is a different animal. Essentially the concept is excellent and when utilised for the way in which it was intended it can and is a very positive and beneficial experience.

There are social media sites that ask for the users to be thirteen and over, much the same as your child’s email account set up from school. Be warned if you misrepresent your child’s age online consider the possible implications of this. If your child sees you lying online they may well feel they are entitled to lie if there is an age restriction on another site they would like to join.

Oscar Wilde
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

The key to building and maintaining a positive relationship with our teenagers is to always keep the channels of communication open. This is different to the lectures or talks we give our teens. I mean really connect and when it matters, the ability to relate to them in day-to-day life. This will help you and your teen to overcome the challenges they face growing up.

It is so easy with teens to get locked into unhelpful methods of communicating, arguing, nagging and even criticising. Once engaged in either of those it is very difficult to get out. Remember teenagers still need our guidance and advise not forgetting the boundaries, which have been set during their first decade. Tactics are key to success regardless if you are dealing with an authority adverse teen or a respectful teen. Our teen still needs to know we are interested but watchful, that we care and have their back even when we don’t agree with them. As parents we must develop the skill and emotional resilience to continue offering guidance and help even in the face of Indifference and opposition.

Our Children, Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and the War Years

Covid-19 (Coronavirus) like the Second World War is a time of huge upheaval for our children and of course, us the adults. Whilst our towns and cities aren’t being evacuated we are adjusting to separation from friends and family. Many Grandparents and those who are vulnerable are scared and because of the threat posed we can’t visit to give them a hug of reassurance. There are no bombing raids and no threat of our men heading to war with the possibility of not returning. But this is a time where we must take precautions and adapt quickly and humanely with respect and empathy. Like the war, we will win but there will be disruption and shortages which will continue long after Covid-19 has left our boarders. This will have a long lasting effect on our children.

Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.     
William Shakespeare

It is terrible to live in fear with the possibility you will loose someone that you love, especially when you have no control over the outcome. Unlike the war years we don’t have to wait for the postman, we have social media and communication is live whether by phone, text or video. I believe following Covid-19 will be our best history lesson! 

The threat of the Coronavirus is here and unlike the war the battleground is not being played out in Europe, Africa and Asia it is world-wide and will affect all of us. We are not trying to defeat Nazism but something far worse, something we can’t see, something hidden. We have a responsibility as family members, neighbours, colleagues, christians and humans to come together and unite to fight this virus. We can learn from the war years, In 1938 when war seemed imminent some precautions were put in place for instance air raid shelters were distributed, gas masks were issued and night-time blackouts were planned. Today it is social distancing, washing our hands, ensuring those who are at high risk remain at home and the washing of hands. We know what we must do to slow this Covad-19 down. The one big difference is there are no B52s overhead and no bombings just now a deadly silence, the battlefield is very different and we are all on the frontline. But we are lucky there are no mass evacuations of children, this virus holds no prejudice of race, religion, sex or nationality. There is no ‘Kindertransport’, to escape Natzi persecution. The British Government in September began a huge evacuation of children from towns and cities. Most kids travelled with their schools and lived with foster parents, an adventure today most children would dislike. Thankfully we have the control of our children’s destiny and remain with them to guide them through and beyond Covad-19.

Our children don’t have to live under the constant threat of invasion, our fear is Coronavirus. Thankfully the information to date on this virus is our young are at low risk and I hope this remains the fact and they will get to fight another day. Unlike the Children during the war years where many were killed at the hands of violence. 

Today our homes are built to our needs, and in many respects we take a lot for granted. At a flick of a button we have heat, water, television and of course the internet. War time homes may have looked similar on the outside but inside many families had outside toilets and a bathroom didn’t exist for most. Children often shared beds with their brother/sister or even their parents. In war ravaged Europe many homes were destroyed and families left homeless. Today, our governments are desperately trying to fight this virus and package economic resources to give many of us some breathing space as employment dries up. We may still have our homes but the fear of loosing them is very real.

The Coronavirus has completely disrupted the education of our children. Our teachers are working hard using the technology we have available to keep some sort of normality and of course ensuring are children are still engaged in their studies no matter what stage of school they are at. I have hovered up all of the help from our educators and during the so called school week have my daughters up and ready for home school. My patience will be tested and of writing this I have not suspended or expelled any of my two pupils.

Never give in.. never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force.. never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.     
Winston Churchill

As of today I am going to introduce a diary for my girls to keep. I hope it will be a valuable history lesson and something in decades to come they can share and look back on and learn from. My Grandfather was prisoner of war for five years and his diary is kept in a museum, those times illustrate a truly horrific period in our history and I pray the times ahead for us will not be the same.

I look forward to the end of Coronavirus and celebrating how all of us made a vital contribution to beating it. Most of all I look forward to the change this will force upon us and the reminder of the responsibilities we have as parents, friends, neighbours, relatives and humans. Stay safe!

Our Children Are Exposed To Cyberbullying.

Children must climb over obstacles to develop into the wondeful individuals that they are.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”  — Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

We all know or at the very least are aware of the dangers that smart phones pose to our children, it may seem easier just to ban them but that’s not a practical solution. They are not under our direct supervision every hour of every day. Thus they have lots of opportunities to get online, so it is up to us to navigate our loved ones and teach them how to use and be safe online, but most importantly build a relationship with our children to communicate with us should they have any negative experiences. This gives us, the parent the platform to assist and help them deal with any online bullying they may experience.

There are no decisive laws in existence that directly relate to online bullying and remember we are discussing children so it is worth keeping in mind they are minors. Cyberbullying is not just limited to children who have a reputation for behaving badly, and it has become a lot more common than what we think for various different reasons, such as peer pressure, jealousy, boredom, trying to be cool, judgmental and lack of parental involvement as things at home are difficult, like a marriage break up. So why is it happening? It can be a form of entertainment, a method to inject drama, power and sometimes the bully just does not see they are doing anything wrong and view it as a harmless joke. But what is consistent is the bully has a sense of invincibility because it is hard to get caught compared to the traditional bullying that was carried out on the school yard and in public view.

This modern day epidemic is not just a western world crisis it exists worldwide. It is growing in the U.S, Europe and India to name just a few countries. While our children are happy to chat on WhatsApp, Messenger, Snap Chat and post pictures on Instagram, we need to make them aware there also exists a dark side to social media. Unlike the old fashioned bullying where it ended once you got home, technology now brings it with the victim 24/7. It is scary knowing our children can be threatened, intimidated and picked on nonstop.

What is cyberbullying? It is when children use online technology to hurt other children. Essentially they are using the internet to hurt, embarrass and harass other children. This is done on purpose and typically ongoing. It can be carried out by a single person or a group of individuals posting hurtful things.

We must nurture our children and give them the opportunity to be a child.
“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.”  — Stacia Tauscher, dancer and artist

It is essential to point out that not all online arguments are cyberbullying. Kids will have conflicts with other kids online, whether it is teasing, jesting or just joking. Children tease because it can spark off a fun way to provoke a reaction in someone else, and they may want to give as good as they got while being teased themselves. Teasing can reinforce a relationship by showing closeness and affection with another child. While teasing can be used to strengthen a relationship, it can also be used to alienate, criticise, and embarrass another person, which may diminish the relationship. The affectionate interaction of teasing can turn confrontational when the child being teased is distressed by the teasing.

So how old are our children when they begin to go online? Children as young as three have access to the internet and most of our children spend more time socially online than we do! Television still remains the media of choice among young children, with kids aged 5 to 8 spending around 64 minutes watching television each day, a number which is even higher in the 2 to 4 year old age group. About 88% of teenagers have access to the internet from various different tools. As smartphone access has become more prevalent, a growing share of teens now report using the internet on a near-constant basis. Some 45% of teens say they use the internet “almost constantly,” a figure that has nearly doubled from the 24% who said this in the 2014-2015 survey. Another 44% say they go online several times a day, meaning roughly nine-in-ten teens go online at least multiple times per day.

So, how do we as parents prevent cyberbullying? We must educate our young ones and prepare them for life online. Explain what exactly cyberbullying is and discuss with them what to do if he or she experiences cyberbullying. Keep all lines of communication open and teach our children respect for others online. What can we control? Monitor or kids usage of technology, educate ourselves of what devices, apps and technology our kids are using. If your budget allow it, use a contract for your Childs phone. This way you can see and manage your Childs technology use.

My Dog and My Family!

“Dogs never bite me. Just Humans” – Marilyn Monroe

My dog is called Murf, a golden Labrador I adopted two years ago. She was used for breeding and when she was of no use to the owner she was dumped on the side of a road with a prolapsed uterus at the age of 4. Murf and I bonded immediately and when I took her home my two girls instantly fell in love. We were the perfect fit. Murf is a true part of the family and a constant reminder of what life is about.

Murf has helped teach my daughters and reminded me of some valuable life lessons, like trust, compassion, patience, responsibility and respect. But watching my children with Murf, she benefits too. Lots of cuddling and Murf is always included in their activities whether its just watching tv or a high energy play when we are out for a walk.

I have always been around pets, both dogs and cats. Although I am a dog type of guy. Comparing these two family pets is a bit like Pepsi and Coke you favour one or the other. Sixty-seven percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet. This is up from 56 percent of U.S. households in 1988. There are roughly 70 Million pet-owning households across Europe (excluding Russia), who own at least one pet animal. This calculation includes 25% Cats and 26% Dogs.

Some of the more obvious benefits of having Murf is my children do learn about responsibility, trust, compassion, respect, self-esteem, loyalty, motivation, empathy, and last but not least stress relief. Nothing like finally getting to sit down and Murf waddles over and rests her chin on my lap with her big brown eyes looking up at me. 

Looking back at all the dogs I have had they have taught me a great deal about what its like to be a dog and how they have different personalities, essentially I think of them and treat them as individuals. As a single parent it can get very lonely, especially when the girls go back to their Mum’s. Having Murf and her wagging tail to come home to is a great antidote to loneliness and an even better companion when chilling out in the evening in front of the tv. I make a huge effort to make the most of our time together and both of us benefit greatly from the exercise. I’m not sure whether Murf enjoys the house when the girls are here or not and I will never know. My daughters are with me every Monday, Tuesday and every second Friday, Saturday and Sunday and I swear Murf knows when they are coming and the excitement and welcoming they receive is awesome to see. I can hear her during the night trodding into each room checking on the girls and me and then thud down the stairs to keep guard of the house. 

Because Murf had such an awful existence before she came to live with my family she has a few health issues, nothing life threatening! So visiting a Veterinary Surgeon was something we were going to do a couple of times a year. What happened next was such amazing luck. Murf and I stumbled into Bushypark Vets and meet Maeve and her team of absolutely wonderful people. Open the door and walk into another world, a magical one! Its very hard to put into words to give you a sense of what I mean. It is something like you feel in your soul and see with your eyes. These people have dedicated their lives to animals and when you are inside the surgery they make you feel part of the team. It is very much like being in an episode of ER. 

The one thing the girls and I agree on; is Murf is the best dog EVER. Somedays when we get home and are exhausted and fall onto the sofa, Murf will walk backwards and forwards under us until she gets a pet then move her head onto your lap so you don’t have to move a muscle to stroke her.

Finding Myself. Part 1

I have always considered bullying as something that takes place in the school playground amongst children who are just being mean to one another. When recently I was accused of being a bully I withdrew myself and gave it some serious thought and dedicated a lot of my free time looking back at my childhood. Apart from the usual sibling arguments and the tactics deployed to resolve them by children which are still being used today, my childhood was no different to anyone else’s. I didn’t stop there I got in contact with friends I grew up and asked had I ever been unkind intentionally? It was nice to learn I was normal and well thought of amongst my friends from zero to eleven years old. I didn’t ask anyone after the age of eleven as I went off to boarding school and my time with my family was limited from that day forth.

But this reflection got me thinking and digging deeper for answers in an effort to find out who I am and my role within this time period.

Within the family unit which is very complex and full of very different personalities there is sometimes one family member who can feel excluded for various different reasons. To them this experience/emotion can cause a real distress. They feel left out, unwanted and not loved and believe their contributions are worthless to the family. As a child this can go easily unnoticed and become perceived to others as a personal trait.

Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and people including families can look to a family member for the mistakes, wrongdoings or their faults especially for reasons of convenience. Essentially this individual is being made a scapegoat. ‘Scapegoat’ was first introduced in the Bible, a goat sent into the wilderness after the Jewish chief priest had symbolically laid the sins of the people upon it. In most instances they are completely unaware of what they are doing and would absolutely deny it if they were confronted with this accusation. 

This behaviour perhaps is how families hide problems they cannot face, as we get older it must be a method of hiding problems, disappointment or resentment towards that family member for a misgiving or a sin. It certainly serves as an effective weapon to attack someone who is vulnerable at that time. The reality is this family member becomes responsible for everything that is wrong in the family. It serves a good purpose to vent their own frustrations, aggression and at worst hatred.

For a child to deal with this, well I can’t imagine and am not qualified to make a comment. As for an adult dealing with this, one would think they are equipped with the skill set to deal and cope with it. Of course this a problem, this causes the person to withdraw, makes them anxious and can lead to depression. It cannot be underestimated, the fear and self hatred this person will come to feel. Of course they will believe what they are told and will accept all of the blame and finger pointing at them despite the fact that most of it is untrue or at the very least completely their fault. Therapy, I found is a very good start to understanding the problem and if that doesn’t work then the only thing left is to walk away and severe all ties. This decision is by no means easy to arrive at but self preservation of ones health is what’s important.

The bottom line is that making someone the scapegoat is hurtful and damaging, whether that person is a child or adult.

When something unpleasant happens, we will naturally try to come up with an explanation for it. We explain it through our experiences, skill sets and knowledge. There are people who trust completely in their own answers rather than siding with you and the reality of the details and information because admitting their mistake challenges their ego and expertise. Example, “Why didn’t you just say no?”

I always valued fairness, because if you do the right thing or what you are supposed to do, you’ll get good things and visa versa. So I suppose people view if you have done a bad thing or something goes wrong you are at fault. Thus where fairness applies it is hard for them not to blame you.

Forming relationships is difficult, and trust is an integral part of any relationship and safety within that relationship. Can we trust them or not? Once a dispute starts, people may not behave as we have come to expect and blame you rather than accept that someone they like did something wrong. Accepting what happened violates their sense of security, making them insecure and even scared. It is important at times to understand what drives people to blaming and finger pointing. Ultimately they are trying to protect themselves.

Nevertheless you are driven by guilt, emotionally drained and confused feeling useless and incompetent. Perhaps there also exists a person who doesn’t see anything wrong with what they are doing, they firmly believe you are wrong and they are right and they are helping you by putting you down so you will see the errors in your ways and never make the same mistake. Boundaries don’t exist, this person is to be admired. The more you try to defend yourself the worse the situation gets and god forbid you try to share the blame. Anger raises its ugly head and the tables are quickly turned and everything now is entirely your fault, you are evil. There is the right way, the wrong way and they’re way. Offence is their defence. In essence they never make mistakes.

Im not sure if my desire to please everyone is a result of this behaviour? Perhaps some coping mechanisms I have developed have made relationships difficult, perhaps all of this is in my head and I need to rearrange my life and how I view things.