Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Getting the balance right.

I blogged recently over my worries for children using the internet. I would like you to watch the following clip, about a couple who built an in-house nightclub for their teens, to see what your INITIAL reaction is.


My honest opinion on first reading the title, was "what a great idea! If I had the money I'd do that too!"

Then I took a step back...I'm amazed to find that I am already so worried about the teen years of my kids, that this would strike me as a good option. My children are still a long way from night clubbing, but it's something that has crossed my mind more than once. I used to think I would only have to worry about my boys getting into fights, drinking too much, "male" type behaviour. Now I'm raising my nieces too, there'll be all sorts of different worries about them. 

I'm basically turning into my mum. I can remember only to well, my mum pacing the floor, or anxious phone calls if I was late home from a night out. Like all young people I thought she was paranoid, what was she so worried about? Now it seems I am struck with the same fears, long before I even have to face them.

I have found letting my children have some freedom and independence very difficult. The media doesn't help, we're bombarded with horror stories and left desperate to wrap our kids in cotton wool, to protect them from the evil in the world. Sadly, that's not possible, and I know I can't account for every eventuality. I'll have to let them face the big bad world one day.

I read about a stranger danger experiment recently. An alarming number of the young participants were charmed by the fake stranger, and agreed to leave with him. I have since explained to my kids how important it is never to talk to strangers, no matter how appealing their story may be. The link can be found here:


Articles such as that are indeed useful, we need to ensure the message has gotten through to our children. However, in my case, they increase my anxiety and fears. I now feel I want to invest in some kind of tracking device, which even as I type this, sounds wrong. My children are starting to ask for some freedom, and if I had some way to pinpoint exactly where they were, I would have more peace of mind. I know there are very discrete devices available, such as watches, belt clips etc. I definitely will be looking into the options. One site I like is TrackYour. The link can be found here:

There are other things that scare me about the teen years, and it's not only me who's thinking so far ahead. My husband and I are dreading the prospect of 4 teenage drivers at home. Hubby, an IT, gadget man has already suggested developing some kind of in-car recording device. We can sit at home and watch every red light jumped, speed limit broken, hand brake turn taken, and have appropriate lecture/punishment ready for their return. 

I'm half joking about the car thing, but it is hard to get the right balance. How can we protect our children without overstepping the line, making them feel we don't trust them? I can remember from my own teenage years a very embarrassing incident due to my parents wanting to keep me safe. I had a Saturday job in a shoe shop in Debenhams. During my lunch hour, I liked to take the escalators and look at all the latest fashions. There I was, in my own little world, enjoying my well earned break. The only thing spoiling my free time, was that persistent security alarm...why was no one turning it off? Slowly, it dawned on me, the horrible screeching noise was coming from me...or rather the personal alarm I had completely forgotten was hanging around my now scarlet neck. 

I really should stop worrying so much. I have a long time to go before the teenage years. When that time comes, I will simply guide them as best as I can, without trying to control their every move.  I'll have plenty of other dramas to face before then I'm sure, my youngest will start school next year and I know I'll find that tough.

What are your thoughts? Do you worry excessively about your children as teens, even when that stage of their life is a long way off? Any ideas on getting the balance right between keeping kids safe and giving them independence? I'd love to read your views.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Modern technology...a blessing or a curse?

What are your thoughts on children blogging? I have very mixed feelings about it. My son, who's 8, has asked on occasion to start one, so far we haven't given in. I can see the benefits in that it encourages children to write, learn better vocabulary, learn more IT skills. However, as a parent who already struggles to wean the kids off TV and computers, I am reluctant to add yet more computer time to the ways they spend their free time. Following our holiday this year, I gave the kids a folder/book each, printed off some holiday photos, gave them stickers etc. and enjoyed watching them make their own holiday scrapbooks. I feel at such a young age, this is a better way for them to write about things they like, and use their creativity. I've been reading a lot on the subject of children blogging, and technology in general. Should blogging be something you're considering allowing your child to do, this article provides some benefits, as well as tips on how to keep your child safe online whilst blogging:


I may well let my children blog once they are older, as there are undoubtedly success stories.  I'm sure many of these kids will be at an advantage when the job hunting stage comes, due to what they have learned through blogging. The London School of Economics estimated in 2010 that 11% of European children who used the internet, wrote a blog. That figure will certainly be higher now. I was surprised by those figures, I thought it was very rare for young children to be interested in blogging, but clearly I was wrong. The Telegraph had an interesting article with information on some blogs by children, including "Jake's Bones", a blog by an 11 year old who hunts for bones with his dad. Jake researches his findings, and then blogs about them. Clearly there are children with interests which merit encouraging a blog, they don't just simply want to write about their favourite TV programs, music etc. The article can be found here:


Blogging, therefore, if supervised, does seem like a sensible thing to allow children to do, once they reach the age deemed appropriate by their parents. However, like many parents, I am delighted by what my children can learn from the internet, but also terrified of it. The news is full of cyber-bullying, with children tragically taking their own lives. Thankfully, I'm not at the iphone stage yet, otherwise I think I would constantly be snooping on my kids to make sure they were not victims of such a serious problem. An article I found very interesting was on the Empowering Parents site. The article explains the reasons why cyber-bullying can be so much more serious than traditional bullying. You can read advice on how to spot the signs of a child being bullied online, as well as how to handle the situation. The link can be found here:


I am definitely a parent who sees pros and cons to modern technology. Apart from the online safety issues, I do not like the way it is affecting families in a negative way. Parents are too often distracted by mobiles, or i-pads, and children are missing out on valuable family time as a result. Worryingly, according to a Telegraph article, schools in the UK will soon be issuing an advice leaflet to parents explaining how important their role is in helping children develop speaking and listening skills. The reason this is thought to be necessary, is that parents are "prioritising mobile phones and television over traditional family conversations". I find it very sad that technology is deemed to have had such an adverse effect on young children's development. The link can be found here:


I wonder how many have the same conflicting views on the benefits of modern technology? Would you allow your child to blog, and if so, at what age? Does cyber-bullying worry you, and how do you keep track of your child's online activities? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Finally, I'll leave you with an article about a family who decided to revert back to a 1986 lifestyle. The McMillans have banned modern technology for one year, in an attempt to bring their family closer together. I admire their dedication, they even have eighties haircuts to make their experience seem accurate! The McMillans have taken things to the extreme by cutting out modern technology entirely, but I do think they have the right idea. There has to be the right balance, between technology, and making sure you have enough quality family time...minus the ringtones.


Friday, 6 September 2013

Autumn's on it's way...the plight of the umbrella.

I suppose it's somewhat unusual that Carolyn's guest post today is by an umbrella. I thought that since autumn is definitely on it's way, it would be the perfect opportunity to make people aware of the plight of my kind...
I haven't had too bad a summer this year. I'm a Scottish umbrella, so I rarely get a day off. The warm weather this year has provided me with a welcome break from my usually hectic work schedule.
Scotland is such a beautiful country, but certainly not an ideal location for myself, and my fellow "brollies" . FYI, we do not like being referred to as "brollies". Show some respect and use our real name.
Challenging is how I would describe my umbrella life. Forced to work in very difficult conditions, it is hard to keep a positive outlook. A Scottish umbrella will age years before her time. The males, commonly referred to as golf umbrellas, have it easier. Built much sturdier and bigger, they can face the elements without too much damage. The female umbrellas are often faced with the indignity of being blown inside out, our spokes in full view, for the whole world to see. Our human owners, instead of acknowledging our embarrassment and discomfort, tend to launch into a tirade of  abusive language. I wish to inform you, gale force winds are not an easy battle to win, your anger should be directed at the wind, not your loyal umbrella who is only trying to shelter you. 
I know there is a new trend for see through umbrellas, it's disgusting to be quite honest. Put in human terms, the see-through is a hussy!

Every umbrella dreams of a beautiful happy relationship with their owner...think "Singin' in the Rain", but sadly, most of us are finally abandoned in a state of disrepair, unwanted and unloved. The lucky ones last a year maybe, some...just a few days. I have witnessed some of my colleagues being verbally and even physically attacked before being thrust into the bin.
Of course, there is always hope for umbrellas. My favourite film (aside from Singin' in the Rain), is a short Pixar film called the blue umbrella. Two umbrellas find love one blustery night, I was lucky enough to be with my owner at the cinema when it was shown before Monsters University. Really, it would have been better the other way around, a short Monsters film and a full length umbrella one, but I suppose not many would agree with me on that one.

I hope I have opened your eyes to the mistreatment of umbrellas. I'll leave you with one thought...if it's windy, be kind. Use your hood!