Do you remember the song ‘Who Are the People in Your Neighbourhood’? I’m sure some of you can hum it in your mind. It’s a catchy song and it was brilliant. Sesame Street had a segment where Bob (the main presenter) sang about different people in the neighbourhood. Throughout the song, he would engage with different muppets, the life-guard, the police man, the carpenter and more. It was a song that had many dimensions to it and constantly reminded us that we needed to be aware of who lived in our neighbourhood.

I think about that song a lot. Today, whilst listening to the radio I heard a story about an 11-year old girl who has gone missing in Bondi. Her parents, desperate to find her, are asking for anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers. My heart broke when I heard this story. I was again reminded why it is so important that we know the people in our neighbourhoods.

In thinking about this I found myself thinking about our communities and neighbourhoods and what life looked like whilst I was raising my children. We lived in a neighbourhood, we had friends across the street, up the road, etc. Much like all of you do….However, we didn’t have online communities. Our neighbourhoods didn’t expand virtually like they do today.

So, in thinking about ‘Who Are the People in Your Neighbourhood’ I want to ask you, do you know those who are in close proximity to you? Are you ‘neighbourly’ with those in your community? In terms of our virtual communities/neighbourhoods, do you know who your children are in contact with? When they are online playing games, are you aware of who they are playing with?

I’d like to share a story with you:

A mother of two teenagers and one ten year old, who is very engaged and involved with her kids and their activites both on and offline, knew her son was playing a game online. He had boundaries and restrictions and he was usually quite responsible in adhereing to them. However, this one night as my friend was walking around her house doing the laundry, cleaning up dinner dishes, etc., she became alerted to something. It was a gut sense and she followed that instinct. She went into the room where the xBox is and asked her son who he was playing with. It was around 8pm at night in Australia and when she asked this he got a sick look on his face. She knew he had broken the rules and it was time for a lesson to be learned. So, #1 he was in trouble for that but she wanted to fully engage and understand why he broke the rules and who he was playing with. Her son responded with, ‘Oh, I’m playing with this 12 year old boy in America.” To which my friend replied, “Right, so it’s about 3am in America and a 12 year old boy is up playing with you?” She began to ask some probing questions and discovered that this boy had ‘told’ her son that his dream was to come to Australia, that he wanted to know where her son lived, was it close to water, was it in a big city, or was it further out? He asked about the kind of house they lived in, where he went to school, etc. I think you get the picture of what was happening and thankfully my friend stopped what she was doing, engaged with her son and took an interest in his vitual neighbourhood.

Was her son playing with a 12 year old boy in America? I think not and neither did my friend. She took the opportunity to explain to her son what was happening and how it happened. She walked through the entire scenerio with him and showed him where and how this preditor found an entry point.

Needless to say, her 13-year old son got a fright and an appropriate one. I’m just grateful that she listened to her instinct and followed through. It’s that simple and it happens all the time.

I don’t share this with you to scare you, remember last weeks article, we have Angels protecting us. Rather, I share this with you to ask you to KNOW the people in your Neighbourhoods. Whether they be the people that we meet, when we’re walking down the street OR, the people behind keyboards who may live a continent away or not. Stay engaged and let this song serve as a beautiful reminder that most of the people on our streets and in our lives are great and amazing, however, that doesn’t mean that we don’t stay aware.

We are about to walk into summer in Australia and that means days on the beach, kids enjoying seemingly endless summer days filled with sunshine, sand and laughter. Let’s do all we can to keep them safe, healthy and happy.

Much love,