The Goddess Speaks
Grandchild grows up fast
My grandchild sends me e-mail. I can't decide if I'm really ready to have a grandchild old enough to chat with me in electronic messages and who lobbies every time I see her for a "chocolate" cell phone.
I support the concept of teens and preteens having cell phones because that allows parents and kids to stay in touch, but Sophie is only 9 years old and in fourth grade. When I told her, "Honey, you're only 9. Who on Earth would you call?" I was faced with the world's biggest black eyes looking soulfully up at me and a small voice saying, "Grandma, I would call YOU."
To listen to Sophie, you would think that even though she has an MP3 player, a Wii and, of course, an iPod, her life as a socially accepted person is endangered because Santa failed to produce the asked-for "Chocolate" (which as I found out, isn't food, but a cell phone). She pounds out letters on e-mail to Apple about technical specs on her equipment, and she is well aware of the dangers of MySpace and You Tube.
Fourth grade, it seems, is a minefield of peer pressure, technology and physical and cyberspace danger. The threat of sexual predators is familiar to her and to her friends, and she is clear on what Web sites are, as she puts it, "inappropriate for a kid."
I find all of this really difficult to get my head around. When I was 9, I was chasing a ball in the local parking lot with my buddies and worried about having enough allowance to get into "The Three Stooges" matinee at the local theater.
I certainly had no idea that there was a wider world beyond my childish concerns. The only glimpse I ever had of the world of adults was dinners with my family where the occasional scandal might be obliquely mentioned between my parents -- coded, of course, for the ears of children.
I worry about how fast Sophie is growing up and about how much she and her friends know about and are exposed to before they even reach double digits in age. Yet she still takes delight in things like bouncy balls, moon shoes and new markers -- all the stuff that I would have liked at her age.
I find she is an odd mix of adultlike understanding and childlike enjoyment, and this is necessary, given the world that she is inheriting. We cannot shelter our children from the world of technology, and if they are going to be consumers, then they need to be wise consumers.
I am resigned to the idea that once a child has access to a computer, conversations about sexual predators have to be part of that child's education. I just hope that all of us remember that just because a kid understands how to negotiate the Web, they still need a helmet and knee pads, and it's our job to provide the safety equipment without scaring the childhood away from our children.
Cris Rathyen teaches English at Moanalua High School.
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