I tell my daughter to be brave but I am having a hard time being brave as she grows up in this digital world full of online bullies and child predators.
Parenting SPM/MM

Raising Brave Kids in a Scary Digital World

I tell my daughter to be brave but I am having a hard time being brave as she grows up in this digital world full of online bullies and child predators.

By Ambrosia Brody of Random Aspects of My Life

“Be careful.”

“Be brave.”

“Don’t worry.”

“Don’t be scared.”

I’ve lost count of the contradictory statements I relay to my daughter on a daily basis.

How do I raise fearless daughters when I’m a ball of anxiety?

Images of wrecked cars, memorials of candles outside a school to honor the life of a child who took his life after being bullied flood my Facebook and social media streams. Headlines of kids being cat-fished or lured by online pedophiles only fuels the fear that letting my girls go means pushing them into the unknown where the once unimaginable has become commonplace.

Tragedy can strike anywhere, and while I understand that I can’t protect my daughters from the unknown, every ounce of me wants to try and do that. Every day I live in fear that something will strike, hitting the core of my little family, pulling it apart at the seams. A quick moving fire, engulfing all that I cherish.

At the age of three my toddler is already glued to her Kindle and iPad when she’s allowed to watch a video or play with the apps. Next will come texting, email and asking for her own social media accounts.

I know I’m rushing ahead of myself, but isn’t that my job? To think ahead? To plan for the future and protect them from potential harm?

How does a parent fear less when the world is filled with so much to fear? How do you decipher a real gut feeling from irrational fear? Because they both feel the same to me.

Bullying, both in person and through social media, is my latest fear. As a woman I understand how mean girls can be toward one another. I have been in both positions, I hate to admit, but it’s the truth, and because of those experiences, I know how easy it is to slip into the roles of victim and bully.

And that was before social media. Now kids can hide behind false pictures and behind a computer screen when taunting others.

How do I protect her against that? Throw out all electronic devices? Monitor her online interactions?

I’m unsure how I will handle it, but I’m already dreading how vigilant I’ll need to be when it’s time.

“You worry too much,” my husband tells me when I share my concerns. “We still have some time before we need to worry about that,” he reassures me.

Too late. I’m already troubled.

“Have a good day at school,” I call after my daughter when I drop her off at school in the morning. “I love you,” I remind her as she runs to the tricycles, too excited to look back. I watch as she confidently straddles the seat, placing her feet on the pedals before pushing onto the blacktop and joining her fellow preschoolers.

So happy and at ease at school with teachers who she understands will be there for her if she falls. Playing with kids who are sometimes her friends and sometimes are not. It’s amazing how fickle kids are at this age and so forgiving as they befriend one another over and over again.

Right now she is not hurt when kids don’t want to play with her at school; she simply moves on to someone else. But it won’t always be this way.

I hope that by the time my daughter realizes that some people hurt others for sport, I have a plan in place for how to ensure she’s safe while on the Internet.

I have plenty of time until she’s using the world wide web on her own. But it doesn’t hurt to get a head start. Right?

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About Ambrosia Brody

Ambrosia Brody is a working journalist, editor, and mother to two under the age of three. Connect with her on her blog Random Aspects of My Life or on Twitter.