Virginia Ironside’s Dilemmas: My daughter spends nearly all her spare time on the internet,


Dear Virginia,



My daughter, who's nine, spends nearly all her spare time on the internet, chatting to her friends – or people she thinks of as her friends. I have tried to limit her time online, but when I do, she gets into such a state that I find it quite distressing. She also says "everybody does it". Other parents I've spoken to don't seem to worry about this issue and say it's just how children are these days. Am I out of touch? I can't believe it's good for her.



Yours sincerely, Bella

Although it would be a shame if your daughter felt completely left out of things that all her friends were doing, you mustn't forget, Bella, that you are her mother and it's your responsibility to offer your young daughter guidance on how to live her life until she's old enough to do things for herself. And remember, too, that your feelings about the time she spends on Facebook or other sites, are not in the least unreasonable. If you were to say that you wished her to get up at five every morning, scrub the floors, make the breakfast and, on her return from school, wait on your hand and foot dressed as a penguin, for instance, then clearly you'd be off your head to insist. But honestly, it sounds as if your feelings are simply those of a normal parent.

In other words, she may get carried away by the argument that "everybody does it" or "every other parent allows it", but you're an adult and you needn't be swayed by this. Maybe some parents are too frightened or careless to insist on restricting their children's time on the computer. That doesn't mean that you have to follow their example.

You say your daughter gets upset when you tell her to restrict the time she spends at the computer. As a result you get distressed. Well, of course you get distressed. It's horrible seeing a child upset, and particularly horrible when it's because of something you've done. But if you can hold fast, stay calm and not hysterical, and just say that while it's fine for, say, an hour a day, or whatever you think is right, but more than that is too much for the moment, then soon she'll get the message. You just have to ride the storm. If you want to show you're not being completely inflexible you might want, later, to say she can have another half hour a day at weekends, but that's that.

What you've got to do, though, is to organise other things for her to do. It's no good just sticking her in front of the telly, or telling her she's got to get her own interests. You may find that you have to spend far more time lugging her and her friends off to museums, or making things, or cooking, or paying for acting or music classes, or just interacting with her. It's up to you to make her realise that that living life in the real can be far more exhilarating and exciting than just talking to people through a screen.

You're not being cruel. You're not insisting she join some ghastly sect. You're not punishing her. You're just trying your best to bring her up properly, and teaching her the golden lesson of self-restraint.

Readers say...

Online friends are fine

I've just returned from a wedding of two of the most intelligent and friendly people I know. Earlier in the week I went for a meal with close friends, most of whom I've know for more than 10 years. Almost all these people I met online. You seem to believe friendships can't be formed online, but that is, frankly, wrong. I know several that have led to house-shares, business partnerships and even marriages. It may be that your daughter is shy and that talking online is easier for her. The thing you must stress is to be safe: never to give out her address or school, and if she ever decides to meet her friends it must be with you, in a public place.

Susannah, by email

She needs a real life

If your daughter was spending nearly all of her spare time attempting to drink bleach or stick forks into electrical sockets, presumably, you'd put a stop to this negative behaviour, no matter what kind of a state she got herself into.

You are responsible for your own child and you are not "off the hook" because of the attitude of other parents. My children, aged 12 and five, have no unsupervised access to the internet. They have access to real friends in their respective peer groups – Guides, Beaver Scouts, hockey, football, after-school drama, debating. At home, after homework, they have musical instruments, books, music, films, two big dogs and a mum and dad who would never let them roam alone among strangers in the real world or a virtual one.

Jennifer Buchan, Renfrewshire

***

Take control

You need to remember who is the grown-up here. Children will always try the "so-and-so's mother said" card but in the end what matters is what you think is right. It's not good for a nine-year-old to spend "nearly all her spare time" on the internet. Tell her what you feel is reasonable and ask her opinion. Then reach an agreement,and stick to it. Communication and respect for each other will help you through the teenage years with your daughter, but in the end some good old-fashioned rules do bring stability to a child's life.

Kay, By email

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    East15 Acting School: Finance and Contracts Officer

    £20,781 to £24,057 per annum: East15 Acting School: The post involves general ...

    Recruitment Genius: Regional Support Manager

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role's responsibility also...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager - Heli Ski Specialist

    £26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: ACS qualified Domestic Gas Brea...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen