Like most parents, I started out my journey feeling confident in my kids’ digital world. I watched with pride as they searched for information for a school project on Susan B. Anthony or watched a YouTube video on how to use the lattice method for multiplication. Most of time, I marveled at how we ever got along without a computer. As the kids got older and my family’s technology use increased, my confidence began to waver.
As the number of devices multiplied, I was struggling to keep up and understand what they were doing online and what they could do online. When I went looking for guidance most of the rules were for a non-mobile world: 1) keep the desktop computer in the family room or kitchen and 2) friend them on Facebook. It is lot harder to limit cell phone use to one area of the house. Besides, with a cell-phones small screen it’s hard to see whom your child is texting even if they’re sitting beside you. How do you friend someone when you are not even sure what app they are using and some apps don’t even have friends or followers?
I discovered parenting in the digital world is not about chasing apps. It is about teaching our kids how to live healthy online and offline lives. Instead of reacting to every new device, app or headline, parents need to start talking early. As soon as they can hold a device, we are beside them teaching them how the online world works. Along the way, we create age appropriate rules to protect them while allowing them opportunities to explore the digital world.
For kids, there is no divide between their offline and online world. Conversations started at school move in to texting or messaging through an app. After school activities are shared with friends through Instagram or Snapchat. To them it is part of their lives. What they are doing online reflects what is happening offline.
So, we need to expand our talk to include not just the big harms but the everyday interactions of what they say and do online. When they receive their first device or join their first social network, we talk to them about being respectful and kind. We show them how to manage their digital reputation and be respectful of others. Ultimately, we show our kids how to incorporate technology in a healthy and positive way in their lives.
To help parents with their digital talk, I created a book full of tips and scripts for parents on how to talk to their kids about protecting their personal information, keeping their devices secure, managing their digital profiles, achieving digital balance in the lives and building healthy relationships online. These talks start when they are in preschool and continue through high school. Ultimately, the best online protection a kid will ever have is between their ears.
Coming Soon Summer 2014!
It is time to start talking digital!