For as long as I have been online, I have been worried about my mum being online, too. At first I was concerned she might interfere with my alternate internet life (mostly MSN Messenger), at the time a precious space where I could practise being my independent self.
“These friends you talk to,” Mum would say, “they might go to your school but I don’t know them. I don’t know their families. I don’t trust them and you shouldn’t either.”
But it wasn’t long before my fear of Mum online became my fear for her. It began when she joined Facebook, and went on to post one too many earnest-mum comments (“My daughter is so beautiful!” she’d write under every picture). I showed her how to message me directly instead.
At that moment I stepped into the role I remain in today: tech support. I am her Sherpa for the digital world. The best bit is showing her ways to make her life more convenient. The worst? Dodgy websites that look like real ones; fake news; sweetheart scammers targeting older women. That’s when I have to give her “the talk” about unscrupulous people and beg her to be more careful.
This week, she reached out again. A stranger had called her on WhatsApp to say they’d found her missing phone. But when the stranger also said that the phone contained several nude photos and she should pay to get it back, Mum knew to hang up and block the number, before filing the details to the police.
I cannot stop smiling about this. It’s not just a criminal deciding to choose my mum – who still uses the aubergine emoji to mean aubergine – as a target for sex-blackmail, but something more. Children eventually become the parents, and the only mystery is when. I’m smiling, too, because my mum sorted her own tech problem. She’s flown the nest, and I’m proud.