Our instant chats were notes we would exchange at school – I recently found a few and discovered the pains of my teenage years, horrified at how my judgement see-sawed from day to day and what complexes plagued me during my final school years. Not to mention my diary which I have promised my kids I will allow them to read when they are older.
The truth is our children are no different to us growing up. The only difference is that their means to communicate has changed. The stuff they write about is the same, their attitudes similar and their craving for being accepted a fact of life. Whilst in many ways easier today, the downside is one very simple notion – What goes online stays online forever. Whilst us parents have the wisdom of knowing this and thus measure our words online, our children are freer and often do not have the capacity to weigh the long-term consequences.
Flicking through the notes I used to write to my friends and their responses it would indeed be difficult to imagine them being there online. They represent a girl I was but do not recognise. In many ways I feel quite sad as to the difficulties I must have had dealing with myself, my siblings, my parents and my peers, yet happy to know that it is a phase all children have to go through.
We often forget how difficult teenage years are. Inherently they represent the in-between phase between childhood and adulthood. It’s a time for self-discovery and adventure. It is also a rough emotional time and a roller coaster ride for parents struggling to let go and attempting to find the right balance between authority, discipline and trust. If only we look back at our teenage years we may begin to understand our children a little bit more. By realising they are normal through they countless demands for trust and by allowing them to push their boundaries encourages a better and more honest and open relationship with them. This is crucial for the safety of our children online. The same way we would trust our children chatting to their friends in groups we should also trust our children chatting online ensuring that we have taken the time to explain the possible pitfalls that can result.
‘don’t talk to strangers in the street’ we have often told our children. Well, the same rules apply online. It’s amazing how one can apply the same rules our parents have passed on to us, to our children. True, technology has made relationships easier and yet more complex. We worry because we do not necessarily understand it, or our children’s need to be connected in this way. We can use our authority to control through educating them and speaking to them. Gaining their trust, not spying on them and restricting them. Restricting will only move them to hide from us – this is what we did when we were their age and we cannot expect them to be any different.
BiographyMikela is a graduate in International Relations from the University of Malta. She holds a post-graduate degree in Management from the Mediterranean Institute of Management, Cyprus, a Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution from the University of Bradford, UK., and a Masters in EU Politics and Administrative Studies from the College of Europe Bruges, Belgium. Her career spans 15 years in the Diplomatic Service during which time she worked on issues related to the IAEA, United Nations, Commonwealth and Sanctions. Other positions held were that of Private Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Speech Writer as well as Assistant Director of Defence and Head of Secretariat of the Strategic Policy Secretariat both within the Office of the Prime Minister. Mikela had a leading role in Malta’s response to the Libya crisis and post crisis planning of Malta-Libya relations. Today Mikela is the Senior Executive for Corporate Affairs at Vodafone Malta responsible for PR, Corporate Affairs, Internal Communications, External Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility. Mikela née Tabone, is married to Eric and together they have five children. Lisa is 8, Anna 7, Sarah 6 and the twins Eric and Rebecca 5. Her hobbies include diving, travelling and reading. (When she has any time left!)