Beware the wolf

Remember? When we were children, this was the expression often used by our parents to make us aware that something could go wrong. Something else we used to hear next was “…and don’t tell me I didn’t warn you”. This meant that the adults were trying to stop us from getting in trouble.

Often we would climb trees higher than we should, or show off on our bikes by standing on the saddle… but we knew the wolf could always appear. Coming from fiction to real life; fairy tales were giving sense to our world, our reality. The fact that we could imagine a little girl going “into the woods” surrounded by all those trees and lots of mysteries, and that something natural as just going to visit Granny could turn into the worst nightmare, gave us the perfect framework to understand our adult’s concerns that something we thought was safe from our perspective, was not so good from theirs.

We never asked what Granny was doing in a house in the middle of nowhere, or how Little Red Riding Hood could not immediately recognize the wolf; but we understood our parents wanted to protect us, perhaps from a man offering sweets on the way home from school. They wanted us to be aware that some things in real life are not what they seem to be. Like the Woodman, our adults were aware through experience that you have to be cautious; not just go up to talk to strangers or cross the road before it’s safe to do so, but above all, to never open our home’s door without asking and confirming who was outside; they wanted to teach us on preventive attitudes for life.

Everything has now changed, the digital world can be more dangerous than the real one, and we also have to consider how to make our children “beware other wolves” and stay safe in today’s liquid world of ever increasing use of the new technologies and the dangers implied. The problem is that nowadays adults seem to have missed the fact that the wolf has evolved into a friendlier, daily companion; phones, tablets, online games, etc. In fact, we expose ourselves opening our home’s doors more than ever, with nearly 50% of adults having used their mobile device to share or receive intimate messages (Sexting), personal photos from someone (including their own under aged kids); we share passwords, e-mail accounts, and bank details.

We scold our children for spending too much time on these devises but we set such a poor example, as we spent so much time in them ourselves; we tell them to leave the tablet and go out and play, whilst answering e-mails at dinner; and of course children don’t buy these devises, we do!. Since they are 10, kids are doing a premature use of these technologies, using well known applications to send insults and disqualifications about their own peers, showing lacks of empathy and careless about others.

We even have new terms to refer to the problems behind the above expressed behaviors. Phubbing, paying more attention to the virtual sphere, and forget about the person we are physically with. The already known Tenosynovitis has got a new variable “whatsappitis” caused by compulsive and continued texting that has been diagnosed and it’s considered an emergent disease. Grooming, when adults use internet to get an intimate virtual relationship with the minors and later on use it as a base for blackmailing and extortion to pursue child pornography.
The fact is that parents generally have no idea how dangerous technology can be and don’t seem to know the internal legal policies for the use of these applications. For example, no minor under sixteen should have WhatsApp installed in their mobile phone, and shouldn’t be allowed to upload YouTube videos until they are fourteen, or have a Facebook account until they are thirteen. But above all children’s Internet use should be supervised by the adults, at all times.

Nowadays, more than 90% of the adolescents are connected to the internet on a daily basis, and three out of four, during more than two hours a day. The story has changed, the internet is full of wolves and Little Red Riding Hood is even more at risk than before. But where is the Woodman now? It is up to us to take on the role of the Woodman and keep them safe.

It is our responsibility to be alert and “Beware these wolves”!

Author: Dr. Gonzalo Torquemada

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