Posts in "Parenting"

Secrets, lies and thinking on your feet

Keep Calm Pamela. This is the message on the key ring given to me last Saturday morning by my friend, the mother of my daughter’s friend of nearly 15 years.

The best friend is organising a surprise birthday party and I’m dropping my son off at hers so that we can spend some ‘bonding’ time together while my house is decorated and the food set out. Continue reading

Putlocker, piracy and parents: when sharing isn’t always caring

“Art is art. That’s how it is in our household. No way would any of us ever download free music or films. Absolutely no way!”

It was an emphatic response to the question I’d put to the crowd at coffee last Friday: “How would you feel if your children were downloading films or music illegally?” Continue reading

The Cloud Lifts

At 4am the day after my Gmail account was hacked over a month ago now, I penned a blog, Google’s Very Dark Cloud (see below if you didn’t get a chance to read it before I binned it). Sleep was elusive and there was little else to do while I waited for two hours to run my anti-virus programme before reactivating my account. Words flowed easily. Continue reading

Our Monsters on Moshi

Last night my six-year-old son signs in to MoshiMonsters, the popular online children’s game, which now has over 50 million users worldwide. He is very excited because he got a monthly membership for Christmas so he can now do more with his pet Monster. So while I get dinner started he clicks through to his friends’ tree, the space where children post messages to each other, and lets out a shriek of delight. A pink monster in America called KittyKat wants to be his ‘friend’.  “I’m going to send her a message,” he yells and excitedly begins typing. Continue reading

Fireworks please

On the evening of Friday 28th October my dear friend Basil sends me a text: “Congratulations on the publication of your book. Well done.”  I respond quickly: “Thanks for remembering the date but has it actually been published? There have been no fireworks.”

Don’t worry, he texts back, “I’ve arranged some for tomorrow night and some more on November, 5th.”

On Saturday, on a Harry Potter Muggletour for my daughter’s 11th birthday I surreptitiously peer into bookshops from the South Bank to the West End – no sign anywhere of Is Your Child Safe Online? There are, however, fireworks that night.

On Monday, in Kingston with my mum, we pop into Waterstones. Nothing. By Tuesday, I decide to email my publisher, White Ladder. Has the book actually been published? They respond quickly. Yes indeed it has! It was in the warehouse on Friday, my copies will soon be in the post and they are very pleased with the book. Must say, I know the book is about the online world but I’ll be rather relieved to see a paper version. I was starting to wonder if it only existed in my imagination.

Heartened by the news from the publisher, I visit the Wimbledon Waterstones, my local bookstore. I know they have ordered 200 copies because the publisher told me this on the day I did the BBC radio interviews two weeks ago. It isn’t on the shelf yet so I pluck up the courage to ask when they expect it in.

At the counter, a young shop assistant asks if he can help. I ask him if the book is on order and he does a quick search. “Yes,” he says, “we have one on order.” My mother raises her eyebrows. I am hoping he means that is my one of the 200 ordered! Nervously, I mutter, “I’m just curious as I wrote the book.”

“Oh,” comes a rather disinterested response, “well it is in the warehouse so I guess not too long now”.

Before my son’s school assembly, one of the Dad’s congratulates me on the publication of my book. I tell him about my experience in Waterstones. “No, no, no,” he says, “you should have walked out, walked back up to the counter and said to him, look sir, can we try this again, please.  You see, I am the author.”

It makes me laugh. But, I am after all, just another author in a country where over 200,000 new books are published each year – that is over 550 a day.

Okay, so it may not be the next Harry Potter (or War and Peace) but, even if I say so myself, it is a serious book written in an accessible way which I believe will give parents plenty to think about as well as practical advice. In the playground, one Mum tells me she really worries about her children online and thinks there is a need for it. I hope others will too.

It is currently available online at Waterstones, Guardian Books, Tesco and Amazon, among others, will soon be in selected bookstores and as an e-book.

Radio Gaga

After 13 interviews in a row with the BBC’s regional radio stations yesterday about my book Is Your Child Safe Online?, friends and family have been ringing to ask if they can listen again. Having played back the five that were live, and feeling very much like my own worst enemy, I’m not sure they should listen to any but in the interests of publicity here goes. Continue reading

The blame game

Image created by my 5-year-old son

For parents over, give-or-take, the age of the 35 the ease and familiarity with which children use technology today is at best perplexing and at worst terrifying. Now, according to the editorial in the latest issue of Psychologies magazine, there is some evidence to suggest that computers may cause psychological problems in later life. The magazine cites a study by Bristol University’s Angie Page (more on this here) which finds that children spending over two hours a day at a computer screen have a 60 per cent higher risk of psychological problems. So, for those of us whose childhood memories are of wind-in-the-hair freedom, Ladybird books and spot of benign telly when the nights drew this is something of a relief. The computer after all, must be to blame for poor literacy skills, increases in violence and the rise in teenage pregnancies – the list goes on.  It is certainly a view the Daily Mail would have us believe. Continue reading