Parenting in the Digital Age
Nov 19, 2013
“By giving people the power to share, we're making the world more transparent.”
Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg
The world is more transparent, and thus smaller, than it has been at any other time in human history. News cycles run not by the day or week, but by the hour or even the minute. The filter by which we keep the outside world at bay has for all intents and purposes been eroded by the internet and, more specifically, by social media.
Being a savvy parent in this digital age means discussing technology and social media with your children at an early age, and the experience should start at home. Leading by example and setting clear rules for everyone in the family sets a solid foundation for responsible technology usage. Simple rules such as “no phones at the dinner table” will help set boundaries for appropriate times and places to use devices.
How to begin this dialogue? The conversation can and should start as early as the devices are introduced to your children. Setting boundaries for proper usage and time spent is the first step to creating a technology/media plan (i.e “No more iPad time until you have…” is a great technique to use with younger children to break the cycle of constant immersion.)
When appropriate, start a conversation by simply asking your child, “How was your day?” Listening to your children’s stories about their day allows you to tune in to who your children socialize with, what they do together, and most importantly, what they are talking about together. These conversations are key to having a real understanding of what your children’s behavior will be like online. Depending on the age of your children, explaining that the internet is worldwide and is not private is the biggest challenge.
Getting an elementary school student to understand that everything they say and do online is not only going out to the entire world, but that it will stay there forever is near inconceivable. Adults make this mistake daily, so it is hard to expect that a child can grasp the severity and implications that can come from posting anything online. While discussing your expectations for your children’s personal accounts, a great litmus test for gauging appropriate content online is to ask your children, “Would grandma/grandpa want to see that post/photo?” This may give a basis for establishing an understanding of what is acceptable to post (and a good gauge for adults, too!)
According to a recent study, social media sites such as Facebook are now the preferred method of communication for people of all ages. It is only a matter of time before the “next Facebook” is upon us. Parents today have the daunting task of researching and studying all of these websites. The more you know about the online community your child is a part of, the better you can monitor not only their behavior, but the behavior and speech of others in that community. In the case of social media usage and your children, knowledge is power.