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All things beauty and then some. Andrea Claire has been a hairstylist and makeup artist for 23 years now. A Canadian based in Singapore since 2007, she has appeared on Asia's Next Top Model, Yahoo Asia, Canadian Idol, So Chic and more.

The Red Hood Project: protecting your children from the wolves.

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By Andrea Claire · December 2, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

You may or may not have heard of the tragedy regarding Amanda Todd and her family. If you haven’t, I strongly suggest you educate yourself and then come back to read my post.

Parenting isn’t easy. Parenting and the Internet is a new frontier where tragedies will hopefully turn into caution, education and action.

I can’t speak too much about specifics regarding the Todd family because I did not know them. The only commonality is the fact that I too, am Canadian. I too, am a mother. I too, am trying to parent with the Internet.

We have always battled ‘but Mom & Dad, (insert name here) gets to stay out late’ … or more allowance, a trip without chaperones, a weekend in NYC… the never-ending comparison as to what others are allowed to do that you are depriving your children of. I usually responded to my children matter-of-factly ‘I say no. I guess I love you more than these kids’ parents love them.’ Humour has always been a part of my parenting – you gotta laugh to keep from crying.

I have often said that we learn from our parents what not to do or what to do with our own children – I guess that’s an obvious. We have recycled parenting.

In comes the Internet. Hell – my mother had trouble with me and the microwave – one day I could use it the next day I could get radiation poisoning – she could never decide. Social media has really been a parenting nightmare. We have no previous history with it. We ‘gulp’ are forging through where no one has gone before and it seems as time goes on the world is exposing to us that the online world is full of trolls and bullies.

These trolls and bullies are certainly in all ages. Frankly – it is sick at how many adults are trolling and bullying. It’s amazing how many nasty comments are spread like viruses onto the internet. We have a sick online society. So how do we heal it?

One of the many sad things regarding Amanda Todd that I found heart-breaking was the amount of people who commented on the parenting she had received. Being a mother of teenage girls in the new Internet age I felt compelled to read a lot of the articles. I began to stop at the end of the articles and avoid the comments. It was overwhelming to see the amount of hurtful comments made against this poor woman’s mothering. I never met this woman so I know that I cannot speak about her parenting but she lost a child. Leave her alone.

I can tell you this: moving forward changes need to be made.

I am from Ontario, Canada. Did you know that in Canada a child over the age of 12 has a right to their own body which means they have a right to refuse medical treatment? I had my eldest (now 18) at 12 refuse treatment on an infected ingrown toenail – the Doctor put down his tools and said he couldn’t continue since she said no. I couldn’t understand why. Clearly her infected toe needed medical attention. They both refused. This includes the extreme - if you feel your child is depressed and potentially suicidal, you cannot force them to get help – they, at 12, can refuse. You, as a parent can step in if they attempt suicide – hopefully that attempt is unsuccessful. Did you know that the emotional help available for teenagers in Canada has a 6-8 month waiting list AND that is also by doctor referral only!

There is a lot about Canadian law and children that baffles me – and there is a lot that doesn’t seem to be accessible online to gather more information – maybe to protect surfing children from themselves? FYI: The US (I am told by an American) children have no rights to their bodies until they are 18. In Singapore it’s 21. 21 may just be a little extreme but the Canadian 12 is certainly ridiculous. I think you need to be protected until you can protect and fight for your own country then you should have a right to your own body, vote and have a cocktail – 18 seems fair.

I can tell you as a parent I do believe that children as they get older should be empowered to make decisions but it really does seem that they have been given power versus being empowered. Power and control have been taken away from parents – discipline is gone. I don’t mean physical discipline either. You tell a child that they are grounded and they walk out anyway. You take away privileges, computer usage, allowance – they still walk out… now what? We are breeding an age of defiance. Is that the Internet’s evil doing? Certainly can’t be lack of parenting. You can read the How to talk’ series or Barbara Coloroso’s books, hell – you can even watch Dr Phil – but unless your children are textbook kids that these experts are expecting them to respond to their methods or if your kids are reading the children’s counterparts you will hit a brick wall. Being a hairstylist based in Singapore with clients from everywhere - we talk – many parents of teenagers are hitting brick walls – I think head first.

I was a single mother in Canada with less than zero help from a man-child who refused to grow up. Apparently pot was more important to him than snowsuits for the children, or the X-Box he bought himself while the children were visiting him for a weekend and he had to get them to lie to his parents that his friend lent it to him – yup. Man-child.

Sure – all parents make mistakes. Shall we give him that excuse?

Go ahead – ask me my opinion on marijuana laws and addiction… let’s save that for a rainy day.

I got remarried and then relocated to Singapore in 2007 - I knew an expat lifestyle would be a fantastic experience – the life had come with challenges. Suddenly my girls are world travelers – Global Citizens! But they went to school with other Global Citizens from different countries with different parenting styles. Please note: I know I am not perfect BUT my eldest, when she was in grade 8 at a pool party hosted by a Danish family – they gave the kids beer; one beer apparently. Those crazy Danes. [I am ½ Danish but that half would still not give kids beer in grade 8.]

My [one and only] parenting mistake? The Internet. My girls now had friends available to them 24 hours a day – Global Netizens.

We can and should limit the internet usage. Get outside more. YES! But wait… how? Most parents are working these days. Are our children safer at home on the Internet or safer outside? We have ingrained stranger danger in person – don’t get into the van, don’t take candy from, don’t talk to strangers… have we done that enough on the Internet?

When I was a teenager there seemed to be less drama than what teenagers are facing today. If you got in a spat with someone at school you would go home, do your homework, have dinner, whatever nightly ritual was bestowed upon you then a new day would begin – the previous day often forgotten. Now kids come home from school tossing their book bags down with outbursts of ‘OMG! I have got to talk to X! You would not believe what Y did!!!’ and the kids that were hanging out together all day are on Skype or FB Chat or sometimes both - escalating the fact that Suzy wore the same top that day is now a global catastrophe. I am exaggerating as my girls wore uniforms but I can’t use an exact example.

Raise your hand if you are a parent who has unplugged the router pretending it was suddenly broken?? Trust me – it takes them a while to figure that one out.

Image source

The Red Hood Project, a ‘reform social media’ cause is small but mighty and getting communities on board to make a change. To say social media is huge is an understatement. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest… the list goes on and on and on.

Raffi Cavoukian, a children’s performer, [from his Twiiter: a troubadour, author, children's champion, ecology advocate, speaker] who I had grown up listening to is onboard as a co-founder. He has been a huge advocate for children’s rights – he has many great things to say – some are certainly food for thought because implementing them as a parent is near impossible – I said near. I am open to suggestions.

Raffi has mentioned the obvious: Parent your child - watch over them on the Internet. This is easier said than done. Teach your child online stranger danger; ask that their schools do too.

Educate. Educate yourself on the ins and outs of the Internet. Follow your children on all social media that they have – perhaps limit them to an amount. One? Two??

You may be familiar with my Zoie Jean (#stuffZoiesays on Twitter); this four year old is whiz on my iPad – scary actually. One day I was on my laptop with Zoie beside me on my ipad. She was watching Dora the Explorer. One second Dora and Boots were exploring – the next minute Dora was cursing like a sailor. Someone had dubbed over the voices with a stream of curse words and uploaded it. Clearly someone who is sick and had a childhood without love. So – watch over your child – sure BUT how? I was right there. It was Dora.

I have often said that they need to have a Facebook Jr, a YouTube Jr – all social media outlets I am SURE can organize junior channels just like they have on TV.

14 is not an appropriate age for Facebook. The 14 year olds will roll their eyes and say it is – but it isn’t. Kids will login under a false age and so will the creepy wolves.

I have way more to add but my blog is not the place for it.

I know I made a mistake with my older daughters. I feel that I let them access social media too young. I can’t go back in time to fix that one. But little Zoie will be limited as she gets older for sure. Now at 4 she already is not allowed on YouTube unless she is on my lap with my hand hovering over the pause button and even that method has been questioned.

#reformSM is amazing - better late than never. It launched on November 1st. The conversations are starting - there is a long way to go. I know I will have more to add to the conversation. It is needed globally. Our children need protection from the wolves and frankly, protection from themselves.

Security gaps in major social media sites, and the apps that integrate with them have exposed children and young teens to risk from predators and abusers online. While education of parents and users is a laudable objective, it is no substitute for systemic security. Kids are not prey, and they are entitled to safety in the social media environment. The time has come for industry to institute measures to secure that safety. Red Hood Project

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