Case Study - Taking It To The Limit
(A guest post from John LaMorte in the Online Safety Group community)
There is really something special about the innocence in our children. The first time experiences, such as Christmas, snowfalls, school and church. Watching from afar how they interact with other children. The roles they take, aggressive, laidback, take charge or content with being an average member of the group. Watching the boys at practice and during games at school and church, the inner coach comes out in me, “Put yourself between the receiver and the quarterback”, “dribble with your fingertips, and practice keeping your head up.” It seems easy to give advice to the obvious situations we see daily, and it’s fun to watch our children take the advice and prosper with it. The younger they are, the more they absorb.
Sometimes, as they grow older, they take our advice and pocket it, smile and walk away. I know when my oldest, Travis was playing basketball, I told him after each practice and each game, “With your size, you need to plant yourself under the basket. Make the defender have to take the ball away from you. You should be winning a majority of the rebounds you go up for, because you’re the tallest, and have the highest vertical jump.” It felt like it was going in one ear and out the other. Then at half time of a game, when the boys were warming up, my friend J.J. called Travis over, “Bubba”, he said, “Why aren’t you taking those rebounds away from everybody, you tower over these boys, when you jump, they get scared.” He nodded approvingly, and then played the best second half of basketball in his life. He told me on the way home, that he appreciated the advice from J.J., and even he noticed his improved play. “You did play like a man on a mission,” I told him, and we drove home regaling about the win. There are moments when you just appreciate the fact that it sunk in, regardless if it came from me or someone else.
Our families intersect with many people each day. Work, school and church are just a small example. When you realize all the people in those places, and the ones we meet along the way, we are influenced by hundreds of people each day, thousands if you include the drivers on a 50 mile commute. Who do you trust, who do you approach with apprehension? Society is teaching us lately that we should be afraid of certain people, and run towards others. The Catholic Church has received a lot of attention in recent years for negative events between clergy and children. “Go to your teacher at school if you’re afraid”, I’ve told both my boys that over the years. But each family is different. I was talking to my friend, and he relayed a scenario that he just discovered with his son. Dylan has been playing Minecraft online. The concept is you play with friends, create a world, and a habitat to live in. You go on adventures with your friends to find food, explore, or build. There are Minecraft worlds that are beyond elaborate. These kids have artist, or architect careers in their future. If they are left to their own devices, they could play this online game for hours. I have even seen my kids watching YouTube Minecraft videos, learning how to build a better world.
Dylan was playing, and when my friend asked him who he was playing with, he gave dad the rundown of the usual familiar names, boys that had been to his home. The clincher, however was Ms. Betty. “Who is Ms. Betty?” he asked. “She is our lunch lady, she makes the best worlds, and she only lets certain boys play with her online.” Now, picture a middle class father standing in his den, thinking that he has done everything that he can to prevent this specific scenario from happening. His eyes as big as saucers, mouth drops open, the who, where, why and how questions come to mind, but instead he takes a moment, being the adult in the room and calls a family meeting. Dylan and his mom and dad and sister are at the kitchen table, because that’s where family court is held. The discussion is now about resetting the limits. Who are the go to people at school? Who is it acceptable to be playing games online with? Who do you go to in the event of an emergency if mom and dad are not available?
Our world moves pretty fast, and protecting our family is our responsibility. Protecting the age of the innocence for as long as we can is key. That means we have to constantly reset our limits, amend the rules of the house and those we apply to the online world that runs parallel to our living world. Letting the kids know that things do change, and to expect change, because when we as adults see a change is needed, we will make it happen. Our families will continue to be influenced by friends, teachers and clergy, or whomever we allow to be an influence. Our non-stop task it to allow the good, filter the bad, teach them who to trust, and how to be proactive in this life we have created for them.