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Updated: Jun 20, 2022

BLOCK is the middle of our STOP, BLOCK & TALK® mantra. All three form a simple strategy for staying safe online but this middle word may be the hardest pill for our tamariki to swallow. After chatting to some kids, young and old, I have come to realise that as a parent, I need to be mindful of the pitfalls they face and may need to think carefully about how I respond without further upsetting the apple cart:

Firstly, there’s the physical blocking, how do they do that? It may be obvious on most apps for most users. Young tamariki may need to be shown where on the screen and how to block others or how to stop themselves from getting into the same situation.

Secondly, the child, rangatahi will go through various emotions which may delay the actions of blocking. They will either stew about these (most likely), quickly dismiss them or, if we’re lucky, come to us for guidance through these:

Anger: They may be angry if the block means they cannot progress with the game they were enjoying. They may be angry at the deception. Perhaps a friend is not really a true friend but just out to get what they want with little or no respect for the others’ feelings.

Worried: Will they get into trouble with their parents? Will their true friends ditch them or think less of them? Have they invited unwanted attention from someone they really don’t like?

Embarrassed: About their stupidity. Maybe they didn’t mean to offend a friend or for mum to see the “colourful” language they used. Or at the other extreme, sent a nude pic to a stranger.

FOMO: Fear of missing out. Rangatahi especially have this primary need to connect with others. They crave attention and a sense of belonging to a peer group, preferably a popular and cool one.

Lonely: They just wanted to connect with others no matter what the consequences, “why worry, it may turn out to be a genuine friend…what could possibly go wrong….”

So, as a parent (or concerned whānau member), how do we deal with these, remembering these are real concerns of our offspring. The worst thing to do is to dismiss their emotions. While our fathers may have advised us to harden up, such advice is no longer helpful or recommended!

Have a conversation with the child/teenager before situations arise. Talk through different scenarios and ask how they would act on them. A helpful strategy may be to explore their personal values and identify the meaning of self-respect. A great tip is to ask them: What would you do to make your grandma proud? Regular open conversations about online safety with your child and teenager before they fall into a trap will, hopefully, make it easier for them to deal with the BLOCK part of online safety. And, as a bonus, foster good parent/child relationships!

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