I think I am part of the very first group of parents to rear children in the era of computer and online technology.
We had no rule books, no prior knowledge to tap into.
This modern world of technology and social media,
was very different to the world I knew as a child.
In our house “technology” was a radio, and a black and white television.
This television was a major delight to us as children.
It had quite a small screen, but an enormous back on it.
It was a black and white television with a button you twisted to turn it on.
Having turned it on you could have gone off to do your homework,
as it took quite some time to “heat up”.
In Ireland most of the country had just one or two channels.
Luckily I lived in Dublin, so we also had access to three British channels.
The sky of our day!
Having a television was one thing, getting a reception was another.
Many houses relied on rabbits ears.
Up on top of the television the rabbits ears were propped.
It was usually the job of the younger ones in the family,
to move the ears in all directions in order for the others to see the picture without snow.
This meant pulling the ears out…no, in… no,
lifting them up…. no, turning them round…no,
and as a last minute desperate measure, picking them and walking away from the TV,
whilst holding them at the queerest of angles.
Eventually when the shout went up, “perfect stay there”,
you would look around furiously for somewhere close to sit the ears on.
When in fact you did move to put them down another shout would go out,
“Ah for Gods sake, go back where you were the pictures gone”.
Watching television was a family event.
Everyone sat together and as there was only one TV,
everyone watched the same programme, which was often a matter of great debate.
After I married I moved to Cork.
Technology was still not featuring very strongly in my life.
In our house we owned just one television a small portable, but it was colour!
You can imagine the excitement when, after six years, we became the proud owners of a huge twenty one inch television, half the size of many peoples televisions today.
I remember the thrill that first day when we turned it on.
We couldn’t believe how huge it was, it was like we were sharing our sitting room with real people.
I had two small children at the time aged five and two.
They stood transfixed.
It was a Saturday afternoon and as we flicked through the channels,
we came to horse racing.
Definitely not something either of us would watch.
However my young son became fascinated with the horses.
He was right up at that television doing his best to pet them.
When it cut to the two racing pundits in the studio he was less than impressed,
so off he toddled behind the horses telling us “horsey all gone”.
As I laughed at his confusion, I saw it happen.
In slow motion.
The small boy leaned against the back of the television.
The television began to fall forward,
and with a heavy thump it landed on the floor screen first.
We picked it up, and switched it back on, to be met by a green screen!
I flicked channel to channel… all green.
Our brand new television, which we’d waited six years for, was broken.
Back to a tiny portable.
We did eventually replace the portable with a proper television,
and then joy of joy we bought a computer.
It was huge, with a dial up modem which failed most of the time.
I love learning new things and after I got over my fear of deleting everything, if I touched the wrong button,
I took to that beauty in a big way.
In time so too did my children.
Now a new challenge arrived. Children’s computer games, bebo (the first facebook) etc.
It was a fresh learning curve.
I remember one day my nine year old son arriving at top speed into the kitchen.
He seemed very distressed.
Initially he wouldn’t tell me what was wrong.
However after a little time spent sitting on my lap,
he began to cry.
“They’re all dead”, he said.
“Who?”, I asked.
“My family!” he wailed and began to sob loudly.
I was at a loss.
Then I remembered he’d been playing Sims on the computer.
A harmless game I’d assumed without really overly policing it.
Could that be the problem?
I brought him into the sitting room, but he froze at the door.
Whats wrong?” I asked.
“They died in the fire”, he wailed.
I turned on the computer screen and there I saw it.
Flames pouring out of the Sims house. The house his sister had lovingly created.
Something my son had done had caused the fire and he had been unable to get the family out.
Terrified he’d turned it off and ran, the line between reality and fiction very blurred in his head.
I eventually convinced him that it was just a silly game.
As I said those words I was thinking “Yikes a lesson learned by me. Is this really suitable?”.
So I decided I’d better check it out. That afternoon we sat down together,
a modern mom, spending time with my children, playing a computer game.
Sadly I was not really a Sims expert, and once again it ended in tragedy.
We had spent time creating a lovely new Sims family,
and then we went a bit mad and built a mansion with a swimming pool for them.
We put the mother and child into the pool to swim, delighted with ourselves.
Within a few minutes we could tell they were not happy.
After much debate we decided they needed to come out of the pool,
but in our Sims ignorance we had not installed a ladder!
Before my nine year old son, and my six year old daughters young eyes,
we watched them die!
The music changed and the grim reaper arrived.
I was horrified but transfixed.
I watched as he headed to a graveyard, RIP!
I shook myself out of my trance, and looked at my two little ones.
To say they were traumatised would trivialise their expressions.
It would appear that this was definitely not a suitable game for them.
“Oh dear, I said, trying to play it down, what a silly game” and I hurriedly turned off the computer.
We walked out of that room, in silence, like a family leaving a dead family member.
I wondered about the future therapy they may require and how I would explain it!
It was however a great lesson learned by myself.
Ignorance was no excuse. I should have known the ins and outs of that game.
I was fooled by the word “game”.
I realised for the first time how little I knew of this modern world,
and I determined to get to grips with it.
I can’t pretend I am fully up to speed. I do twitter, facebook and yes a blog.
But I am aware of how much I do not know, and that this online world is here to stay.
It’s not good enough nowadays to just know what your children are doing when they leave the house,
we need to know what they are doing at home too!