The first little traveller was six when I bought a copy of Queenbees and Wannabes, a girlfriend had recommended it as a great read for raising girls. At six, the first little traveller was busy at school, dance and soccer - she had friends that parents dream of, giggling sweet little girls that provided small hiccups but never any great dramas. I looked for signs of mean girls and cliques, and although there was a 'top dog' in the class, she didn't really factor into the first travellers world.
When we moved to Qatar, we encountered our very first experience of mean girls, I wrote about it and cried from the first sentence to the last. The school handled it incredibly well and it was all over in a matter of days. We were lucky.
It was at that time that I went back to find Queenbees and Wannabes and discovered it had been re-released with a new chapter. In the space of about five years the book had become completely outdated due to a rapid change and increase in teen online behaviour.
Although the little travellers are not owners of mobile/cell phones they do have iPods. This means that some of the little travellers have access to messaging, Instagram and chat. On top of this, the first little traveller has a laptop that is issued by the school. Her online presence does not include Facebook (at this stage) but it doesn't seem to matter - she's out there, hashtags, profiles, links and all.
We talk often about the online world at our house. I've showed the little travellers several videos about online bullying and we've talked about why we have to ask for permission before we publish a photo of anyone. Quite often you'll hear an indignant call from the back seat of the car "Delete it! You didn't have my permission" (why does the nintendo game boy have a camera?) - the rules are clear. At this stage I feel like I understand their technology, at this stage, it's working.
It's the next phase that is really bugging me.
It's the stuff they don't have control over. The things that are said, the photos that get tagged and published that come back to haunt you. Remember, I worked in recruitment for years, I know how much your online behaviour can change an employers perspective of you.
I hadn't heard of creepshots until I read this article in the Gaurdian. I took a quick look at the reddit site and discovered there was someone I disliked more than the guys who are snapping shots of girls sunbathing and bending over at opportunistic times. It's the guys who have convinced their girlfriends to pose and then decided to share. I think of how much I idolized a particular boy when I was in year 10 - would I have done that for him? I'm not sure, maybe.
Our children's definition of privacy has changed, they have been on video since birth, their parents have thousands of photos stored on hard drives - your two year old who automatically smiles for the camera suddenly becomes your twelve year old who has made an iMovie of their summer holiday and posted it to youtube.
I keep saying it "think before you post", and "make sure you have permission" and "don't write anything you wouldn't say".
And then I say a quiet thank you to myself that none of this stuff existed when I was a teen.
What do you do? What are your online rules at home?