Wednesday, 11 September 2013

No, my daughter is NOT available

No, my daughter is NOT available
11 September 2013

My little girl is just eleven years old.  That’s right, eleven.  It’s a very, very young age.  She might not always appreciate this fact, but luckily for her I do.  She IS still a babe in the woods.

And so a part of my daily job, is to protect her.  To have her best interests at heart.  At eleven, she still has a right to be cushioned from some of life’s more harsh realities.  Not only because they are harsh, but because she is too young to know about all of the ugly out there.  And nor is she wise enough to be able to differentiate between the innocent, and the not so innocent.  And to deal with it all in an appropriate fashion.

I had been resistant to her having a BlackBerry for ages.  And predictably, she has been hankering after one for ages.  I held firm in my belief, despite us having an unused BlackBerry floating around for over a year.  She was too little.  Having a small child with unrestricted Internet access is not wise.  There is no control.  No limits.  Furthermore, as a teenager, Luke had to wait a long time before he got a much yearned for BlackBerry.  And giving Amber one, a few years before he got one, just for the fun of it, would be mean.  His was a much cherished Christmas present a few years ago, and so simply giving Amber one, would be cruel.

However, she already had a cell phone.  Not that I was too happy with that either, but I had been outnumbered on that score, by Grant.  What can I say – I’m old fashioned.  I didn’t quite understand why she needed one.  Still, there was this contract, technically belonging to her (for her old phone).  And it was time for a renewal.  And so the logical decision, was to replace my problematic BlackBerry with an upgrade on her contract.  Life for her, would continue as per normal, with her old phone.  And though the upgrade was kinda hers, us parents were the ones footing the bill, and this made sense.  However, we’d still be stuck with the old BB contract.  My logic said, it’s okay.  It’s just R60 a month.  Not the end of the world.  It can just lie there – dormant, not being used.  However, her original phone also started playing up, and so we gave her my first Berry.  Even getting her a limited data bundle, so that she could do WhatsApp and WhatsApp only.  And that was going to be the limit.  No internet access – or at least that was what we were telling her.  But here’s the thing – with old BB’s you can’t access apps like WhatsApp, without BIS, irrespective of whether you have a data bundle or not.  In addition, sms’ between kids seem to have died out.  No one does it.  They all either WhatsApp, or use BBM.  And so despite Amber having a BB phone, it was pretty much a paper weight.  The dice was loaded.  And so with a heavy heart, I conceded, she’d have to do the full BlackBerry thing.

We explained it nicely to Luke.  And he was absolutely fine with it.  Except for expressing a wish to not have to befriend her on his BBM contacts.  Yes, sibling love is alive and well in the Cloete home.

And so a few days ago, we finally did the whole BBM thing and Amber is now all connected.  She can do WhatsApp, and BBM too.  Quite predictably, she’s been beside herself with excitement.  Feeling all grown up.  Ostensibly, she’s also boosted our little in-family Cloete-Clan group that Grant started for us on WhatsApp.  My charming son, Luke, left the group, a few hours after its inception, ages ago already.  And so, for the longest time, the Cloete-Clan, was just Grant and I.  Pretty sad, right!

The focus for Amber at the moment, is to collect contacts, so that she can BBM her friends for free.  And I’ve made peace with it all, and I’m really cool with it.  However, a day or two after she got her BBM, she came and showed me a Broadcast that a friend had done.  It said, “Hey guys!  I know this really cute, hot girl.  Her name is Amber and her pin is ……..  Add her to your contacts.  She’s cool and she’s available.”

No, I’m sorry.  That is just not cool.  Call me old fashioned.  It’s okay.  My Amber is cute.  I’ll concede to that.  In a few years’ time, I’m sure she’ll be hot.  She is indeed cool.  But one thing she is not, is available.

It advertises an image, that I am not comfortable with.  And I don’t think the kids, pre-tweens and teens quite get that.  In essence, what does this really say?  It sets the tone, for the nature of conversations that follow from this contact request. 

Perhaps I am too jaded and pessimistic.  Not usual character traits for me.  I’m sure this kid meant no harm by this.  She was merely trying to help a buddy to build up a contact list, as the kids like to keep constant track of how many “friends” they have.  I understand that.  Her intentions were good.  And the majority of people who would have seen this Broadcast, would be eleven and twelve years old.  Pretty harmless, right?  Still, this kid has an older sibling.  And chances are that she has some of her siblings friends on her BBM contact list.  And therefore you can bet your bottom dollar, that some older boy, has now got my daughter’s details.  Once again – not cool.

Technically, Amber could become online friends with a fifteen year old boy, that we don’t even know.  And just so we’re clear – I have a fifteen year old boy.  I know what they’re like.  It’s true that most of them won’t befriend and eleven year old little girl.  But let’s not forget that this eleven year old “little” girl, is cute, hot and available too.  And they wouldn't necessarily know her age in any rate.

And so, this is the rule – no accepting of friend requests, from anyone that you don’t actually know.  Only befriend someone, if you’d be willing to really talk to them in real life.  The old fashioned way – with spoken words.  Only befriend someone, if you don’t mind introducing them to me.  And know this – I can pick your phone up at any time of the night and day, and I better know who all of your contacts are. 

Is this too controlling?  At fifteen, I have long since relinquished this type of control with Luke.  It stands to reason.  It would be abnormal if I didn’t.  But, I still feel that it is legitimate with my eleven year old little girl, to keep a measure of control.  She needs to understand the dangers of projecting an image and of the very real dangers out there.

Kids do this Broadcasting thing all the time.  They love it!  I had the privilege of having a few teenagers on my BBM contacts.  By their request not mine.  The children of my friends, family teens, etc.  I have thus been on the receiving end of random broadcasts often.  And it’s fine.  It’s usually entertaining.  I’m not a fuddy duddy about that.  I don’t mean to judge them.  I was once young too.  It’s merely the content that bothers me.  And the tone of broadcasts of this nature.  In addition, in the profile pics of most of the girls, they’re rather scantily clad.  They also do a lot of pouting, which I think they think is sexy?  And most of the pics quite simply say, “Take me”.

I’ll have to monitor Amber.  There will come a time, when I will have to trust her judgement.  And they all do the racy profile pic thing.  It’s like a rite of passage.  Yet at eleven, it won’t do.

And so, in conclusion, my daughter is NOT available.  What she is, is eleven.

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I found this rather powerful and a bit of an eye opener


  1. I agree, Amber is NOT available!!
    Little less complicated when you were young.
    I think you are an awesome hands-on devoted mom.

  2. Crackberry AdamD:

    I hate Blackberry!

    it wasn't me I swear!

  3. I totally agree with you Helene! It is not at all 'controlling' to be worried about the safety of your child. My sisters first daughter is 12 and she has the exact same rules when it comes to her BB. Rather safe than sorry! Great job momma! ;)