Even on Facebook parents need immunity to embarrassment

My mum had superhuman powers when I was a kid.

When I was about eight, a friend and I would play spies on our council estate.

We’d use the poorly designed walkways as our lookout posts, and the labyrinth of corridors were the motorways for our high-speed chases.

The fun we were having was obviously lost on the angry older lady who lived on the corridor we raced down.

She opened her door and shouted at us to stop running and making so much noise.

My friend shouted back colourfully, suggesting she go back into her flat and leave us alone.

We ran off laughing and I felt like a gangster.

I got home to find my mum waiting and angry. She knew what I’d done, who I’d been with and what had been said.

At the time I had no idea how she had become so well informed so quickly, but in later years she explained that she’d been informed by the estate’s internal communications system – her network of other mothers and friends who picked up the phone and let her know what I was up to.

Now, almost 40 years later, a lot has changed. For many children their playground is digital.

Alice Phillips, president of the Girls’ Schools Association, warned at a conference recently that some parents had grown afraid of chastising their children in case the little cherubs embarrassed them on social media.

She went on to claim that parents were becoming less bold and intuitive and instead were constantly second-guessing themselves.

“I find myself increasingly wanting to reach out to them as I believe that parenting has never been as difficult as it is today,” Phillips said.

“Why? Because one’s instincts are constantly challenged and spontaneous confidence dissolves. Today, social media means they are conscious that their every action is the subject of global scrutiny.”

I’m not sure what sort of people send their children to St Catherine’s school in Surrey, where Phillips is head, but parents need to be immune to embarrassment.

The job of a parent is to bring up a well-adjusted, balanced young member of society, not to be “down with the kids”.

Maurice Mcleod is a London-based journalist.

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