In today’s technologically advanced era, it’s relatively easy to monitor what a teenager is doing on their smart phones and computers.
A previous Khaleej Times article reported on a few Dubai schools which track their students’ online activity to ensure safe usage while on the internet.
Parents and schools can also block certain websites to prevent children and teens from accessing unauthorised content.
However, how can or should students, especially teens, be monitored when they are not online and are out and about with their friends? In the past, several schools have issued “stranger danger” warnings to students and parents. Do parents know where their children are going after school?
Khaleej Times spoke to a few parents on whether they allow their children on any unsupervised outings after school. Some of them said they don’t permit their children to go on outings, while others said they trust their kids and do allow it.
The mother of a 12-year-old, Samana Abbas, said she and her husband do not allow their son to go anywhere, besides home, after school hours.
“No, we don’t allow kids to go out with friends after school. The kids should only go out with their parents even if they’re meeting their friends. We make sure that we pick and drop them from and to the places where they want to meet their friends. We definitely know where the kids go and for what purpose,” she said.
“The kids do participate in activities like football and kickboxing and these are close to our home; however, we always make sure they don’t go alone.”
Another parent, Bhavna Sood, said her 15-year-old son is allowed to go out with friends after school; however, he must check with her over the phone. She said that she is “always aware” of where they go.
“My son is enrolled in after school activities; so, he comes back home late once a week. His outings with friends are limited to weekends or occasionally on Thursdays,” she said.
Afshann Lodhi, who has four children, also allows her 14- and 17-year-old a few outings with friends, however, only if she meets them first.
“I do allow them to go out, but I would first invite all her friends over to our home to see how they are,” she said. “I have learned to trust them and they have got good instincts as well. I’m a mother of four kids and the older two have graduated. So, I’m experienced at handling teenagers now.”
Meanwhile, another parent, Sobia Hasnain, said she does not allow her children any outings alone after school. “They can only go out on the weekends, on the condition that I am dropping them off myself, and somewhere that I trust they will be safe. If they plan to visit a mall or cinema with friends, I stay in the same place but at a distance from them. The reason for the above is my concern for their safety and the fear of kids grouping together and doing something adventurous without realising the consequences,” she said.
Teenagers in the UAE are encouraging their peers to reach out to an authority figure if they feel unsafe after school.
Khaleej Times asked parents if they know where their kids are going after school; however, a few teens wrote in, saying they are “responsible enough” and are also asking their school mates to stay safe.
One grade 8 student, Sravya Nagalakunta, said she has a set routine for herself after school.
“Being a teenager, I know my responsibilities as I am old enough to handle them myself. My teacher has always taught me to always look out for myself, especially when I am alone,” she said. “After school, I board the bus. When I reach my stop, I get off and walk to my house. This is my routine and nothing ever disturbs it and I hope it doesn’t for others as well.
“If any student is facing any kind of problem, they should understand that there are people who will look out for you and will be disturbed if something happened to you. So, the message I want to give out to my fellow school mates is to stay safe.”
One student, Hurairah Faatimah Muzammil, said her school bus has CCTV cameras that monitors the students’ activities.
If a student does not show up on the bus for any reason, the parents get notified.
“The transport facilities help us compute the distance from home to school. After we get on to the bus, we ride home following all the safety precautions. The buses are kept under strict vigilance using CCTV technology to ensure safety,” she said. “The parents are also well notified about any revised timing and an SMS is sent if a student misses the bus, is absent or late. The school has hired a conductor for each bus who checks on the safety of crossing the road, getting on and off the bus, as well as bus etiquette. The parents are also expected to reach the stop and pick up their children.”
Christine de Noronha, Vice Principal – Gems New Millennium School, Al Khail
Between the school dismissal bell and the call for dinner, how do teenagers fill their time?
A parent of a 14-year-old was shocked when he was informed by the police that his son had purchased a fake branded shoe and then sold it for three times the price, claiming it was an original. Are parents aware of what their teenagers are doing after school hours? Where are they going? Who are they hanging out with?
In today’s nuclear families with both parents working and returning home around 7 pm or later, teenagers have a lot of free or ‘me’ time on hand. They are often entrusted with the house keys, trained to warm up their food and eat it and then instructed to do their homework. How long can children remain productively engaged without supervision? The idyllic afternoons of bike rides, playgrounds and ice-cream trucks are no longer seen. In this tech-saturated world, teenagers don’t even have to leave the comfort of their couch to wander into a completely different world.
It all begins in the formative years. The number one thing parents can do to prevent kids from getting into trouble is getting them connected into positive activities like sports, music or other creative outlets. In recent years, after-school clubs have exploded in number in part to meet the demand of ever-evolving student interests and the needs of working parents who need their children to stay gainfully occupied until they get off work. Teenagers must be made accountable for use of their time. This can be done by parents and children drawing up a schedule for their after school hours.
Volunteering and involving young people in activities from which they do not necessarily personally benefit, develops in them values of empathy and compassion. Although volunteering can sometimes be a part of high school graduation requirements and meeting scholarship needs, it needs to be instilled in teens as a value. Such values, which children internalise from young, became a norm for them.
Teenagers are an extremely valuable resource of energy, goodwill and creativity, and when they are committed to a cause, miracles take place. Almost everyone agrees, engaged teens make for better teens.
My daughter is 13 and doesn’t hang out much with friends after school. Her close friends are from school and they don’t live close by. Also, I feel older teens tend to hang out more often than younger teens. At times, she does stay back at school for school competitions, practice sessions or for helping teachers and students with organising exhibitions.
Smitha Vinod, parent
I don’t allow my kids to go out with friends directly after school due to several reasons and because of safety issues. I wouldn’t be aware of where my girl is going and who she is hanging out with.
Hina Asif, parent
Yes, I do send my son, who is 15, directly to his friend’s homes but only after checking in with their mom. I only send him over to friends whose parents I know. I am always aware of where they are going, be it a friend’s place or a mall. I call them from time to time and they are also supp-osed to keep me informed.
Bhavana Sood, parent
© Khaleej TimesFeb 2018