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 the 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.
After reading sensational news stories about kids and social media, I wanted to throw every device out the window. Headlines screamed out at me that strangers were stalking children on social networks, cyberbullying was an epidemic, and sexting was the new rage. Technology had apparently invited a world full of pedophiles, bullies and pornographers to my door.
I discovered that when problems occurred in cyberspace it was ultimately my fault. Some articles characterized me, the parent, as naive or neglectful unless I was monitoring every text, tweet, like and reblog with the proficiency of a seasoned NSA agent. Other articles labeled me a helicopter parent and predicted my constant surveillance would create a generation unable to make decisions on their own. In other words, to be a good digital parent, I needed to know everything they were doing online while simultaneously allowing them complete autonomy. Impossible.
Parents do need to be out front guiding their child’s internet use. Often the techniques parents employ are reactive not proactive. They are only seeing what their child has already done. This does not prevent mistakes. Reacting to texts already sent leaves parents in the position of punishing not guiding. The best way to prevent mistakes online is by giving them accurate information, teaching them how to behave and showing them how to live a healthy digital life.
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.
Parenting in the digital world requires the same dexterity as parenting in the real world. As soon as they can hold a device, a parent is beside them teaching them how the online world works. Along the way, they create age appropriate rules to protect them while allowing them opportunities to explore the digital world. Having the digital talk is essential to teaching kids how to make good choices both online and off.
Faced with a tech-savvy kid, who rolls their eyes when a parent mixes up a browser with search engine, the digital talk can be intimidating. This is where “Talking Digital” comes in. This book begins with preschool and continues through to high school. Each chapter focuses on a different age and contains information about what kids are doing online at this stage, what topic parents should bring up, how to answer tough questions and what to do when a child makes a mistake online. This book is about giving kids the life skills needed to lead a healthy digital life. Ultimately, the best online protection a kid will ever have is between their ears.
It is time to start talking digital!
Available on Amazon