Monday 25 September 2017

Amanda Brunker: 'My nine-year-old wants his own You Tube channel'

Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker
Amanda Brunker's sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

Amanda Brunker

My nine-year-old is demanding his own YouTube channel. ‘All my friends have one,’ he reasons, but this mommy is not for budging.

I’ve been called ‘annoying’ and ‘so mean’, and when he thought I wasn’t listening, an ‘a**hole,* but for all his pre-teen tantrums, I will not break. Breakdown maybe… in a darkened room with a bottle of wine, a share-bag of nachos and a binge of Mad Men. But give in?

No way.

Don’t get me wrong, these battles take their toll on me emotionally. The juggle is a struggle. Any parent who tells you differently is lying to you… or not putting enough effort into their responsibilities.

Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

My eldest is not even in double digits and he’s already exhibiting signs of being a hormonal monster. Sound familiar?

I exchange banter with other mothers, joking, ‘What will I do when he’s actually a teenager?’ But I genuinely worry about the future, as all parents do. However, I will not apologise for protecting my son from the perils of the internet; it’s too early for me to extend that parental leash.

Having lived in the public eye all of my adult life, I remember bullying before and after social media was invented. And while I am personally a big fan of being able to connect and communicate with strangers, for all the good it brings, there is an evil side to the internet that I do not want to expose my kids to. Or should I say, expose them to again!

Just over a year ago, my youngest son, then seven-years-old, had become very withdrawn in himself. My happy child had turned sullen and wouldn’t explain his anger to me. At weekends after football and rugby, he would retreat to his bedroom on his tablet and play hours of what I thought were innocent games. I was wrong!

After sneaking up on him, I grabbed his tablet to see what he was viewing and he lost it. Like wild animal crazy! My cuddly son punched, kicked and threw things at me. I didn’t recognise this little curly mess in front of me.

On investigation, I found out why.

Amanda Brunker's sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker's sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

He was playing a game called Clash of Clans. There was a messaging bar on it that I had never seen before. As I scrolled down through it, I found tens of hundreds of mini texts telling my son, my adorable baby, albeit a seven-year-old baby, to kill himself! I couldn’t believe my eyes. ‘Kill yourself. Ure ugly. U have no friends. Die, die, die…’

I was distraught for him. Furious at myself for the neglect. I should have educated myself better. Would I have allowed my seven-year-old to play with a knife or a box of matches? Of course not. But I allowed him to play Clash of Clans and exposed him to vile bullies that made him feel worthless and not fit for this world. The guilt still haunts me.

Thankfully, he’s fully rehabilitated now. He’s allowed his tablet at weekends, as is my older son, but they are now obsessed with certain YouTubers and Minecraft and I keep a closer eye on their viewing.

While, the day is coming that I will no longer be able to stop my son, strike that, sons, from setting up their YouTube channels (it’s the future apparently!), this dragon of a mommy will not be allowing Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube or any other forums I don’t know about access to my impressionable kids.

Amanda Brunker
Amanda Brunker

For now, the only person who is allowed crush their dreams is me.

Random strangers on the internet, or YouTube, will have to wait their turn!

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