I was interviewed recently for a wonderful and very important research project being run at LSE, entitled Parenting for a Digital Future.
The interview pulled me up short, because it made me realise that I am hostile to my adolescent daughter's entry onto the digital scene, for reasons that surprised me.
1. I'm very ignorant about WHAT she looks at and WHY.
2. I know far less than she does about what's hot and what's not online.
3. I feel deeply threatened by her desire to vlog, although all she is doing is learning from online celebrities like Zoella.
4. I don't want my little girl to grow up.
5. I am terrified that she will be attacked or stalked online, even though all she is doing is learning how to use email, text and WhatsApp. I won't let her have an Instagram account, and certainly not Facebook.
6. I am terrified her love of reading, drawing, thinking and playing is being crushed by an addiction to spending time playing Sims.
7. Yet.... I write a blog, and use a computer all day every day.
8. I had never asked her whether she had ever looked for my blog. She has.
9. I use the internet all the time for research and writing purposes, and not just wasting time — why don't I want her to do the same? Why don't I trust her?
She wants to show me what she is doing.
I am the one pushing her away about her relationship with digital media.
I am the one who has things to learn.
I'm not wrong about addiction, but that's because I have spent years monitoring it in myself.
The only way to get through the next few years is going to be through conversation, staying in contact, staying open. Sometimes it is actually more wonderful to send texts to each other than it is to try to talk face to face. It doesn't necessarily mean that she is disappearing into virtual reality.
Yesterday we argued about spending a day off screens because the sun was shining. I'm not proud of the things I said. It burst a nasty pustule of tension between us. She cried and asked me why she no longer wanted to read. It's not because of the internet, darling, it's because you are growing up and grieving your childhood self. I cried too.