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Vacation warning

Thursday, July 9 2015

WITH THE vacation period upon us, now is as good a time as ever to remind parents and guardians to exercise proper levels of supervision to ensure this becomes a productive and fun time for their charges.

Particular note should be taken of the warning issued on Tuesday by the Children’s Authority. Noting the July/August vacation periods corresponds, annually, with a “high incidence of abuse of children”, the Authority called on parents and guardians not to leave children unsupervised and to talk to them about child abuse.

The Authority advised that if parents and guardians are unable to supervise children, they should leave them in the care of a responsible and trusted adult and check regularly to see how they are doing. It really takes a village to raise a child and there needs to be a return to a communal aspect to child-supervision in Trinidad and Tobago.

Which is why a recent case which reportedly involved a taxi-driver penning a love letter to a child is disturbing. Taxi-drivers perform invaluable services to communities allowing us to move freely. These persons should be looking out for the interest of vacationing children, not taking advantage of them. They, too, have to supervise minors who come across their paths.

Also, users of the nation’s beaches must also play a part. Parents have a duty to take care of minors at beaches and to bathe only in safe areas. But all of us at public spaces should keep an eye on safety.

But it is not just a matter of supervision, but also the quality of it. Children are like sponges. They absorb messages and signals sent by adults. This perhaps is the underlying assumption of President Anthony Carmona’s speech to a group of 108 students at a camp at the Cotton Tree Foundation at Spanish Acres, Ariapita Road, St Ann’s.

“All we ask of you is to love each other, treat everybody the way you will like to be treated,” Carmona said. We praise the Foundation and its work in holding a three-week camp which aims to allow children to better appreciate diversity. In addition to a usual blend of field trips, arts and crafts, sports, computer classes, dance, music and cooking, the camp also features academic lessons to cater for the falloff of school classes during the vacation. This is a good balance to strike.

But supervision does not only involve taking care with the physical and social spaces which children inhabit.

As indicated by recent statistics, a major frontier which increasingly affects the lives of all of us is the internet. According to one firm, which presented its findings at a forum hosted by the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce, there are 570,000 users of the online social network Facebook and 600,000 users of smart-phones. In a population of about 1.3 million, that is a lot.

Robbie Burns, of the Social Core Group, stated about 91 percent of smartphone users go online to be entertained. He said typically, persons check their Facebook pages some 14 times a day. This indicates the nature of the reach of the internet in our daily lives. Being plugged in 24/7 has the potential to have a big impact on all of us: adults and children alike, Therefore, parents and guardians should be particularly vigilant on this frontier as well. Adults should play an active role in reviewing the sites visited by kids, turning on all available settings to filter them and also downloading the wide range of tools available to give them greater control of what their children see. Parents also have to be aware of the nature of the beast. They have to be online in order to see what’s circulating. If they are in the know as to the latest video going viral on the internet, for example, they will be able to formulate strategies to provide pertinent guidance to their children should they be exposed to material that might not be ideal.

Finally, we say increased supervision does not mean a lack of fun. On the contrary, supervision allows parents to rest assured that their children are safe and at the same time, enables parents to encourage children to find their voices and pursue their interests in an environment that is safe.

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