IT'S so very hard to protect our kids. Everyday life throws challenges at us, from road safety to bullying, junk food availability to violent TV, anti-social behaviour to inappropriate internet content and early sexualisation. Every day it's a challenge to filter out the bad stuff and ensure our little people aren't over-exposed to the nasty or damaging parts of life.
When the kids are still very young we have more control. We get to decide who they play with, what they eat, how they're allowed to spend their free time. We control their bed times, leisure activities and ensure they're properly supervised by a responsible adult.
My three kids are pretty young – all under seven – so, you'd imagine I'd be in a strong position to keep them safe and protected. Two of them are in school, and while I can't control the behaviour of children in the schoolyard, I can ensure my kids know the value of kindness and respect.
School life is happy and, thankfully, I haven't had to deal with anything distressing like bullying, but there is another area of life that I do find hard to control.
It's the constant horrors that punctuate the radio every 30 minutes. Is it just me, or are the news bulletins ever-increasing gore fests? They seem riddled with horrendous reports of violent crimes and sexual abuse and seem to burst into my car or kitchen with increasing regularity.
Like so many Irish people I love the radio, and it's a constant companion. I'm pretty loyal to one station in the house, but switch between three in the car.
My youngest two pay little heed to the radio, unless a favourite song comes on. By contrast, my Second Class boy is all ears, hungry for knowledge and information, seizing on soundbites and sports updates to learn more. He half hears stories, then often asks me or his dad to elaborate, which is great.
Talk radio hosts often warn listeners about sensitive content before it airs, giving adults a change to switch off or change channel. As a parent I always appreciate the opportunity to protect my little people from things they really don't need to know about.
The problem with news reports is that they're unpredictable. The lead story may be political, but no sooner than it seems safe to continue listening, there's an awful story about sexual abuse or a violent crime. Last week I heard the words, "her father was a monster" in a news report. They're the kind of soundbites that jump out at kids, who, understandably, want to know more.
Am I a fool wishing news bulletins should spare us the graphic details? Am I the only parent who jumps on the volume control whenever phrases like "rape", "children killed in a bomb attack", "the mother-of-one was shot dead" or "sexually abused by her uncle" seem to blare from the speakers?
I don't want my children learning about the sadness or nastiness that exists on the fringes of the society. I don't want to have to explain rapist or paedophile or sexual abuse or murder to a seven-year-old because they've heard it mentioned on the radio. Once they learn about these things there's no taking it back.
I'm all for freedom of speech, but really wish that newsrooms had some kind of filter that could be used to keep our kids as innocent as possible for as long as possible. We don't live in an ideal world, and it seems the one we live in is becoming less ideal by the day.