It's a simple enough thing - your child, let's call her Roxy, is hanging out in her bedroom with her friends and they are laughing at a YouTube video or admiring the Instagram account of someone who's just been to a music festival. Meanwhile, you're putting the microwave popcorn in a big bowl for them all to share and you call up to Roxy to come and get the bowl from the kitchen. So she leave's her friends watching the video and pops down to get it.
What's happening now, upstairs, in Roxy's room? Hopefully nothing more than watching the video. But even friends like to play a prank every now and again. So what if one of Roxy friend's thinks it would be funny to a send text message, WhatsApp or an Instagram Direct Message (DM) to a boy that Roxy likes but hasn't quite had the courage to let him know just yet?
Maybe the DM reads:
Hey P, I just wanted to say I really like you - I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time but the timing has never been right. I really like you... I mean I REALLY like you, a lot.
And what would P think... "Wow Roxy really likes me!" or maybe more like, "OMG Roxy is a stalker!" ... and right there and then Roxy's card is marked, the online sharing of THAT message goes round her school in hours and on Monday... EVERYONE knows and the name calling begins, the glares and sideways glances and suddenly Roxy's friends are distancing themselves from her. Before long she's pretty much excluded from every friendship group and isolated and alone at school.
Whilst this is a ficticious storyline we know only too well and with much sadness, that it has played out in almost every secondary school in the country at some point since the explosion of smart phones over 10 years ago. And it will most certainly continue.
So please, please drum into your kids, whatever their age, these 3 Golden Rules:
NEVER, ever give your phone to someone else. If you want to show your friends something on your phone them show them but don't give it to them.
NEVER, ever leave your phone unlocked. Always have the Autolock feature set to the minimum 30 seconds.
NEVER, ever use anyone else's phone, to send a message except in emergencies and with their permission, you never know how much damage you may cause from something that was 'just a joke'.