When I was in elementary school, we had our pictures taken. Not for picture day, but for ID cards for our parents in case we got lost. They took our fingerprints, wrote down our height, weight, eye and hair color. If you asked me back then what it meant to keep me safe, all that would come to mind is not walking off with a stranger, venturing too far from home or making sure I stopped, dropped and rolled in case of a fire.
It wasn’t long after that when my family bought our first computer. Growing up during the rise of computers and the internet was fascinating to say the least. It used to be that kids who sat in front of their computers all day were considered anti-social. I was one of them. I learned to code a pretty awesome website (for the times), complete with a cursor that had a wand following it. Then chatrooms became a thing, which turned into instant messaging, which turned into social media. I was learning all of this on my own, and suddenly, I was exposed to a whole new kind of stranger danger. I was making friends with people I had never met, or seen. The scanned photos my friends sent to me were blurry and could have easily been fake. There was little to no monitoring of what I was doing on the computer every day by any of the adults in my life because it was completely new territory.
Thankfully for me, this story ends with generally positive online interactions and experiences. But I’m fairly certain along the way I met someone online who did not have the best intentions. Over the course of my life, what it means to protect my innocence changed. It didn’t just mean I needed to be protected from strangers on the road, or a fire, or bad guys on the internet. It wasn’t a single factor that was changing and bringing new dangers into my life — I was growing up, technology was changing practically by the day, and the people around me were changing.
The way we protect innocence is shifting.
As the world around us evolves, what it takes to protect the innocence of our children will as well. How do we protect their bodies, how do we protect their hearts, how do we protect their ability to conceive of what-could-be? When we are working so hard to make a world where children are free to be kids – how do we protect against threats that don’t exist yet?
At Thorn, we spend a lot of time asking ourselves these questions. We’re inspired by them, they make us focused and driven. What we’re doing now won’t be what we need to do years from now, and that’s exactly how it should be. And what we do is just one piece of what it means to protect innocence. Our communities, and our families are our first opportunity to experience safe spaces. Those safe spaces are where we learn about the world, and about who we are, and maybe most importantly – that’s where we learn how to build new safe spaces. It’s incredibly challenging to keep up with all the ways things are changing, but it’s also reassuring to reflect on the role we can all play in building the world we want to live in. It takes all of us to protect our children, it takes more than one thorn to protect the rose.
You are one of the millions of Thorns we need to do this work, and we’re so thankful you’re out there doing good work. If you’re looking for some inspiration, we have a couple of ideas on where to get started.