I am very soon to be the mother of an adult. It is absolutely insane that my little millennium baby is turning 18 in a matter of weeks, that coupled with the whole university application process is a stark reminder of how fast this goes. One minute I was literally learning how to breastfeed and struggling with little sleep and now I am the one waking her from her slumber after she has tripped up the stairs following some party or another the night before.
Thankfully I spaced my children out. The plan was always to have three but for a while, we faltered at two before deciding that yes three was happening! It means that we now have 17, 13 and 8 year old.
Parenting a mixed-up age group is fun but does present itself with a few obstacles along the way. I have had to tell the teens to turn their music down, not because I am being deafened but because of the language! Grime is the boy’s preferred style and let’s just say most of the words are not what I want the 8-year-old reciting in the playground! He now appreciates that is what headphones are for!
The same with late nights. For Erin, a late night is about 8pm but she does get cross sometimes when she realises that I am going to watch a film with the teens after she has gone to bed. She definitely then has a FOMO (fear of missing out).
Another area that having age gap kids can affect is access to the internet and keeping my children safe online. I have been quite strict about gaming and internet use. Dylan was not allowed to play age-related games that were unsuitable. I remember having a conversation and a letter home about the game Call of Duty when he was in Year 6. The school was asking us, parents, to consider our position on the game because the boys in his class were talking about it so much. I responded that we don’t have the game and neither would he at such a young age. Sadly I was in the minority which I still find rather shocking. However, as they have hit the teen years I had to relax a little. We have talked about online safety many times and as a former teacher and current school govenor, I am well aware of the dangers. The restrictions have softened because they need more access to help with coursework.
However, I still need the strict restrictions in place for Erin. Erin is growing up with Youtube as her main form of entertainment. She rarely watches TV but uses YouTube in its place. Yet we all know that YouTube is a bit of a black hole. You can quickly and easily click a few times and be watching something totally different. One solution is using a clever system called F-Secure SAFE. It is a comprehensive Internet security product for tablets, computers and smartphones. F-Secure SAFE is also available bundled with F-Secure FREEDOME, a clever app which gives you complete privacy online, blocks unwanted third-party tracking and malicious websites and encrypts your data to keep you safe on public WiFi.
What I like when I tried the service is that we can set the system to have different access to different members of the family. Switching off my wifi is not an option. Chloe is often revising and using the internet to aid that late at night. Dyl goes to bed later than me often these days and therefore me switching off the internet is just not practical, besides they have 4G access! Yet I still want to restrict Erin’s usage.
The F Secure is working really well for us. It was easy to add various devices so that I can block certain websites, including social media sites. There is a free trial that you can sign up to see if this works for your family. Parenting is always a learning curve and whilst they were little it was quite easy to navigate parenting, it was exhausting but quite straightforward.
The last 15 years have seen great strides in technology in the home and we are all learning the boundaries. It is definitely a time of change and I welcome these products that are being designed to keep all , members of the family safe online.
Do you have any concerns about how your children manage their internet usage?