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Halo Kid Cries Over Homework

There’s been a lot in the press recently about whether our security services are spying on our Facebook messages and Tweets, that I was reminded of my own experience with GCHQ.

Back in 1994, when having a fax machine was deemed ‘current’, I was asked if I would provide a personal reference to an old friend of mine as he was going for a promotion that required another level of security clearance. Now given that I was brought up in a part of the UK with a large number of military establishments and naval bases this request did not come as surprise. As an upstanding British citizen with nothing more than a couple of speeding tickets to my name I had been asked to do this on a couple of occasions.

This time however, they wanted to interview me. So at the given time, I opened my front door to a man who looked like he had arrived straight from the 19th century, clearly an ‘establishment fellow’, with the only thing missing being the bowler hat – a truly intimidating character.

We sat down and he started to flick through the pages of a huge manila file, it had to be 3” thick. Trying to fill the silence I quipped “goodness me, you have a lot of information on Peter!” To which he responded, and to my amazement “Oh this isn’t Peter’s file my dear – it’s yours”

I wonder then, as we are now living in the digital age, how much information is available to organisations about our children?

Eight years ago when I joined a global UK Telecoms company, the security checking took 6 weeks! These days companies can find a whole load of information online in seconds. Our children need to really think every time they post, tweet or snapchat, as anything they put ‘out there’, can and might be used against them!

As the next generation grows and matures they could find their past coming back to haunt them. Our kids often don’t think about the future, so we’ve set up a check list to help your teenagers keep a clean digital footprint:

Digital Footprint Tips

1. Keep it private... Make sure your children have secure privacy settings on their social media accounts. Avoid posting anything publicly and make sure only close friends and family can see their posts.

2. Think before posting... Explain to your children, that posts are often there forever & could affect them later on in life. Think: Would you want future employers or even future friends seeing that photo?

3. Online vs real life... Set clear ground rules for how to behave online. If you wouldn’t do it in real life don’t do it online!

4. Google yourself…. Try searching your name online and see what comes up! If there’s something you don’t like try contacting the site to see if they can take it down.

5. Have a spring clean… Make sure your kids remove any unused social media accounts and that they check through their social media photos regularly to delete any unwanted images.

For more info on how to set the right privacy settings for your children, check out our privacy settings guide: www.homehalo.co.uk/blog/privacy-settings/

With HomeHalo you can set time limits on each of your children’s devices to ensure they aren’t spending too long on social media. You can also set age appropriate blocks to ensure they don’t come across any inappropriate sites. Click here find out how HomeHalo can keep your family safe: www.homehalo.co.uk

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Let’s look at signs that could be indicative of when your child may have crossed the line:

• Overly-obsessed:

Yes, it can be difficult to recognize the difference between an adolescent passing fancy versus a full-blown obsession.  When you speak with them, does the conversation seem a little heavy on the gaming side? Discussions about plans that weekend to meet up and play somewhere? If you attempt to curtail their time are they irritable (this can be hard for me as well, after all, when is a teen not a little irritable?) but does their anger seem explosive and unreasonable if anything interferes with their gaming time?

• Unaware of time passing:

Not long after the wrist injury, I found my son downstairs in their ‘man cave’ way into the wee hours, still awake and battling away.  I reminded him that I already told him to go to bed to which my son replied, “I know, I just want to play for a couple more minutes…”and that’s where I found him three hours later!  Yes, I know that most teens are not really known for their prompt attention to details or timeliness, but still….

• Falling Grades, Missing Social Events:

I love all my sons, but truth be told they’ve never really been the uber-scholarly types, and yet when I went online to check on my son’s grades, it was shocking even for their minimal marks.  Missing assignments, low test scores/homework assignments.  Obviously his low grades where indicative of something larger and when his social life seemed relegated to weekends of Halo as opposed to going to the movies or attending school-sponsored events, I really began to worry.    

• Lying/Dishonesty:

When I confronted my son about his lackluster school efforts combined with his overly-devoted time to gaming, he of course became immediately defensive and worse yet, began lying to me.  Telling me that he went out over to a friend’s house to play basketball when I know for a fact after talking to his friend’s mother that the two of them spent a good twelve hours straight online and playing Halo.


As a mother, you always want the best for your children and when I began to calculate the amount of time spent online, the total was shocking to me.  And far worse for my son.  Time taken away from his childhood, squandered on a television screen, time that he would never get back.  I spoke to my husband and we both agreed that his Halo obsession had grown far too strong, so we did the only thing we could….we took the console away.  

It was two weeks of utter, well, you probably know what I’m referring to, but I wasn’t willing to lose my sweet boy to a game that was causing his grades and social life to fall away.  I gave him my old college acoustic guitar and had him join a ‘School of Rock’ program that I found online.   We found out later that he was having a hard time fitting in at school and to him playing online was a great escape, when he battled on Halo he could become a hero, especially on the multiplayer campaigns.
 
It was tough at first to wean him off the Xbox, but now when I hear him plucking away in his room and actually smiling again….well, the weeks of discomfort were well worth it.  

If you are interested in the School of Rock programs, check out: http://mystory.schoolofrock.com/ for their nearest location.