Is stranger danger a myth?

When you live with depression and anxiety stuff can quickly get complicated.

Today I was talking with an older woman who has been teaching Philosophy and Psychology for over 30 years. She is a delight. And every word she speaks is intended to help me better understand the questions I ask.

I’m not necessarily a brilliant mind. In fact, if I were to define myself, I’d say I’m simply someone who likes questions. And so does my friend!

My acquaintance with this woman might be considered a matter of fate. We enjoy the coffee at the same establishment. And whilst most days our paths will cross, we don’t always speak. What, with her head in a book and mine behind a screen, sometimes we simply exchange a smile of acknowledgement. Our relationship doesn’t necessarily need words.

Today however, we did get ourselves involved in an exchange of thoughts. And, after considering a number of issues, we got caught on the topic of mobile phone use! Happily my friend announces she has never owned a mobile phone, and can’t think of why any important matter would not have you preoccupied to the point of waiting at home for ‘that’ call. For me, my mobile phone is something I can use to distract me when my mind can’t be engaged. I call people from my car (hands free) to help pass the time while I’m driving. I use it to keep me awake during lengthy meetings or moments when boredom is causing my mood to alter unhelpfully.

My mobile phone is a self-indulgent accessory. A socially acceptable toy!

But it’s not my use of a mobile phone that crept into my serious mind. The conversation led me to wonder about why, our culture believes a mobile phone is so important for avoiding, averting or reporting a disaster. Have we convinced ourselves that each of us is so vulnerable, that there is an imminent threat of danger?

But my questions go deeper than that. I was led to a long ago conversation with someone whose religious beliefs meant that television and other electronic media and equipment were banned from homes. These clearly ‘ridiculous’ and ‘old world’ elements of religion made me roll my eyes with a degree of derision. How silly to believe that television interfered with their ability to love God.

My love of questions however, led me to ask that so often unasked question; why?

The answer was incredibly simple and wasn’t even supported by endless nondescript theology that often accompanies such restrictive beliefs. The reason – because these technologies invite ‘matters’ into homes that are unwelcome and potentially dangerous. These people don’t want to be exposed to the things that could be harmful. Consequently, if these technologies could be utilised only for their benefit, they would most assuredly be welcomed.

My eyes didn’t roll at this, I simply wondered why they thought themselves not strong enough to resist ‘evil temptations’ especially within a faith-based model of life. And it’s a question that until my conversation with my friend this morning, I never quite got to pondering. So I’ve begun to think more deeply about the issue and it’s not as simple as condemning a person’s beliefs as superstitious and ‘ridiculous’.

In fact, I was quite challenged by the concept of protecting our homes from bad stuff.
You see, what popped into my mind was all the marketing messages we receive. And to take this conversation back to mobile technology, the way marketers will tell us how good it is for us to have it. We’re bombarded with images of happy people being ‘connected’ through this particular technology. Hardly something harmful! But what we’re not told is that your base level smart phone, without much configuring, can not only help you stay connected with others it can bombard you with unwanted, sexual, violent, adult and disturbing images. (Today on my Facebook newsfeed I was confronted by a cruelty to animals image that really disturbed me.)

We seem capable of convincing ourselves that our children will experience only the benefits of smart phone ownership; connectedness and improved safety. But on reflection, there seems to be a greater means of potential harm than any benefit we’re convinced of. And, if you think that you have applied every safety check to protect your child consider this:

A little while ago, we were excited to have some friends staying with us overnight. There are 5 of them 2 adults, 2 teens and a child. We were having a lovely time sitting outside by the fire, googling funny (and youth appropriate) you tube clips on our Ipads. My Ipad, which has no ‘adult content ’ protections on it (because I’m well, errr an adult) without me even noticing was providing the two teens standing behind me with an education their parents had not intended for them. These images were uninvited (and unwanted) advertising for explicit material intended for adults. Fortunately their mother quickly covered the offending images with a sudden need to point at something else on the screen, an action I only fully understood upon reflection.

For two teens however, I had potentially and unwittingly introduced them to what was available. It might not have been the first time they’d been exposed, but that’s not the point. I didn’t even realize!! I had allowed unwanted images into my home and placed someone else’s children at risk. My home should be a ‘safe’ place for friends and family.

I’m not suggesting that Ipads or smart phones are at fault or that electronic devices should be banned or that I am overtly sensitive to the protection of others. But I am suggesting, the negative side of having unfettered use of these devices, is providing an open door to the stuff of life that most of us, given a choice, would not allow in our homes.

Frankly, I have NEVER read a news article that discussed how wonderful the mobile phone is for children. I’ve listened attentively to the benefits of these devices. The access they provide to information, communication, relationship and safety. But I’ve only ever heard these arguments in the context of some type of harm that has befallen an impressionable, vulnerable and now damaged child. Bullying. Violence. Sexual assault. Grooming. Pornography. Abduction. Sexting. Altered sexual perception.

If you’re a person who drives your child to school to keep them safe or locks the doors at night; If you’re a person who understands the difference between good and bad or between right and wrong and would go to any length to protect your children from ‘bad’ stuff; then the argument that mobile electronic devices will be useful is, to my mind, nothing more advertising spin and manipulation.

I’m not sure that there’s much a reasonable parent wouldn’t do to protect their children from harm. So I wonder, in a world that develops technologically at an ever-increasing speed, how we continue to ensure the safety of our children. To protect them from what we, as reasonable adults, would believe harmful if it walked in our front door. To protect them from perpetrators that creep soundlessly looking for vulnerable, easy targets. To protect them from their own inability to make reasonable, well formed decisions during their season of learning.

We have for decades warned our children of the risk associated with strangers, without ever considering that any random stranger may in fact present a wealth of knowledge and accessibility to learning. We have considered that strangers are the enemy of children when in fact the great danger to children lays within the circle of family and friends that we’ve allowed to walk in our front door.

The things that are wholeheartedly welcomed.

These days, children can text on their cell phone all night long, and no one else is seeing that phone. You don’t know who is calling that child.

From Kamala Harris These days, children can text on their cell phone all night long, and no one else is seeing that phone. You don’t know who is calling that child.

If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.

To contact Deb click here:

Contact Deb

Read more of Deb Shugg’s BLOGs about living with depression and anxiety click here:

Read another depression and anxiety BLOG

If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor.

(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *