TIME flies when you have kids and, once again, one of those big parenting decisions crept up on me. When and in what circumstances do you let your child go out on their own?
That was something I didn’t face while the kids were at primary school but now, with one at high school, it suddenly became a live issue.
My parents let me run around much more freely and at an earlier age than I have ever let my kids, but the times and circumstances I grew up in were very different. Suburban Adelaide and the rural Adelaide Hills many years ago were pretty calm and quiet. We didn’t have mobile phones to keep in touch, but everyone was pretty confident you were in a safe place – provided you didn’t go down Hindley Street on a Saturday night, Adelaide’s notorious but by today’s standards very tame night time entertainment scene.
I admit to being a bit over protective. These days there just seem to be so many more dangers and traps for the young and naive, but that doesn’t stop kids from chafing on the leash.
Recently, our eldest decided it was time to push the boundaries. He rang me from school to say he wanted to go out with his friends on a Friday night. They were going to hang around Civic, grab some dinner and then head off to the movies. He assured me that he would be sticking with his friends, that they would mainly be in the Canberra Centre and my husband could come and pick him up once the movie finished.
Reluctantly, I agreed but I was worried my precious son was going to be out and about and, in my mind, anything could happen.
My anxiety wasn’t helped by Google, which quickly took me to a newspaper article a few months earlier that cited police figures saying that on average at least one person is assaulted in Civic every day.
As it happened, the evening passed incident free and my boy had a great time with his friends.
But it got me thinking about ways of protecting kids when they are out and about. Discussing risks and things to avoid is vital. Mobile phones are essential, as are contingency plans for the possibility that a phone is lost or gets a flat battery. Encouraging kids to feel free to ring home and provide updates on what’s happening is always a good thing. A strict curfew seems like a pretty good idea and arrangements for pick-ups need to be firmly agreed and understood beforehand.
Not everyone is comfortable with phone-tracking apps, but we have found such things are enormously useful. Not only do apps such as Life360 enable all members of our family to know where we all are (and between two workplaces, two schools, sporting commitments, shopping and other activities that can be pretty complicated), they also greatly aid the search for the phone that has been left at home or wherever. Arguably, we’ve embraced becoming a surveillance family, but with that comes extra peace of mind.
As a parent, it’s hard to let our precious children go and take increasingly independent steps out into the world – first a Friday night in Civic, a few years ahead it’ll be that first solo overseas trip.
But step out they must. I just suspect that I’ll be tracking them for a long time yet.