Red Balloons Aren’t The Thing To Fear…

For the past month, IT has taken the top spot at the box office more weekends than not. Although I read the Stephen King novel (more than once, in fact), I have not gone to see the film and as the days dwindle down between now and Halloween, it is not likely that I will get there.  However, the buzz I have heard from people, friends and family who have seen it, is that it was well done, and unsettling, and down right scary. Now,  understand, I am not taking a pass on the movie because I am afraid (not me!), but because, as a parent I spend so much time being nervous and scared, that I am just not in the mood for horror movie shrieks this time around!

My readers who are parents, you know well of what I speak.  It’s not red balloons hovering over sewer grates that we have to fear when our children walk to and from school.  It’s not a supernatural clown in an underground pipe or a voice coming out of the sink drain that we worry about when they head to practices or dance classes or play dates with friends.  There are, in this day and age, so many real fears and dangers for our children, that even a scary movie like IT pales in comparison. For  we know that it is not the monster under the bed that matters, but the one who lurks behind the computer screen, the interactive video game, the anonymous text message, who is the real threat.

Our children at younger and younger ages, are becoming more connected to technology. While I am firm in my belief that technology can be a good thing, it does open the doors to a whole new world, one of interactive learning and collaboration, but also one of cyber bullying and misleading messages designed to lure children away from the safety of their families and into dangerous situations.  We have come far beyond the old “don’t open the door to a stranger” message that was pounded into our own heads many years ago. Now it is expanded, with warnings being more about cyber strangers than actual ones.  (How many strangers ring the front door bell anymore? We actually know our Amazon Prime delivery guy!)  But we must constantly remind our children, whether they are 6 or 16, to be careful, to be cautious. Don’t accept a friend request from someone you don’t know!  Don’t put personal information as to where you are out there for everyone to see! Don’t visit chat rooms and agree to meet a person you talked to online! The list of taboos could go on and on and still, we read all the time about awful things happening as a result of these boundaries being let down, even for a minute.

Hand in hand with this comes the overwhelming rise in cyber bullying, which is destroying the lives of tweens and teens everywhere. Can you turn on the news on any given day and not hear a story about this topic? How many more tragic tales do we have to hear, do our children have to hear, before the message finally starts to sink in; that words do hurt, whether you are saying them to someone’s face, posting them on your Twitter, or calling someone out via a Snapchat story?

The cyber world is indeed a scary place at times, and the fact that it has almost totally overtaken the lives of many of our youth is unsettling as well.  So, this October, what we need to remember: The red balloon is most likely not the danger, but the midnight friend request quite possibly is. The ghost that is haunting someone’s life, is not creeping around their attic, but flashing on their Snapchat page. And it is only when we pop all these balloons and rid ourselves of these mean spirited cyber ghosts, that spooky movies can go back to being something people in enjoy in the weeks before Halloween and not pale imitations of the real world horrors and sadness.

From one parent to another; talk to your child today, about internet safety and about cyber bullying!

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