March 6, 2017 · Posted in Media, Parenting, Technology · Permalink
By Hilary Smith
What was one of the biggest obstacles your parents faced raising you as a child?
For many of us, we answer with the typical struggles of late “Gen X’ers”. Our parents might have limited our consumption of sodas, flavored lip gloss, MTV, or time spent talking on the home phone. During our youth, we could only dream of brick cell phones and high speed Internet that didn’t require a dial-up modem. However, today we are faced with new parenting challenges that our mothers and fathers never had to encounter: digital technology.
Common Digital Challenges Facing Parents Today
The digital era has ushered in a variety of modern conveniences. Our homes are filled with cell phones, tablets, laptops, and other smart devices that promote easier communication and access to information. In fact, we are the first parents to raise digital natives, children who are growing up in a technology driven society who can’t remember a time without the Internet or wireless capabilities.
Unfortunately, this access comes with a potential cost to our children’s well being. With a swipe of a finger, our sons and daughters are facing cyberbullying, insecurities, predators, and addiction to the fast paced world of the Internet. To put this into perspective, we have compiled the following data:
- 9 hours is the average time teens spend online everyday.
- 87 percent of our kids have encountered cyberbullying!
- 750,000 predators are estimated to be online everyday grooming victims.
- 54 percent of teens under 18 admit to sexting.
- 56 percent of people admit to suffering from a “fear of missing out” (FOMO) when unable to access social media.
Parenting Do’s and Don’ts for Living in the Digital Era
Reading the above numbers can be frightening, but thankfully we have the ability to intervene and help prevent our kids from becoming just another statistic. Listed below are some tips to help us navigate these common digital challenges facing our children:
Do understand the adolescent brain is undergoing major brain growth. Surprisingly, our children’s brains aren’t fully mature until they reach their mid-20’s. This development is creating connections deep inside the prefrontal cortex and affects everything from decision making to assessing risks. We need to remind ourselves that even though our kids act and talk like mini-adults, they are still growing.
Do keep all digital devices in common living areas. This allows kids freedom to enjoy technology, but reduces the chances they will take part in risky online behaviors. By keeping devices in open areas, we have the opportunity to see what our kids are doing online and can step in if we witness questionable choices. As an added bonus, this keeps devices out of the bedrooms to safeguard our children’s quality of sleep.
Don’t forget to design a family technology contract. As a family unit, take a few minutes to list all of expectations for proper device usage. Next, make sure to outline the consequences if someone doesn’t uphold their end of the contract. This will allow children and parents to clearly know what is expected and prevent future disagreements.
Do begin an ongoing conversation about social media etiquette. We need to empower our sons and daughters with the skills needed to protect themselves online. Talk about ways to handle cyberbullying, sexting requests, or avoid sharing personal information.
Do encourage children to notify you if they encounter cyberbullying. This will allow you to document cruel messages and offer a shoulder to cry on. If cyberbullying continues, seek help from school personnel or authorities.
Don’t forget about the Internet’s permanence. It’s vital kids realize everything they post could be uncovered years down the road. The Internet never forgets and future colleges, employers, and scholarship boards might look online to glimpse how a child represents themselves.
Do help kids set their privacy settings. This is important, because social media sites and our devices constantly update their privacy settings and add-on services often leaving us vulnerable.
Do stress that it’s okay not to sext. Today’s teens view sexting as normal and often think it is a safe alternative to physical activity. However, similar to STD’s, sexting carries lifelong consequences. Sending or receiving a sext among children is considered a felony.
Never friend people you don’t know in real life. “Catfishing” or using fake profiles is common among child predators and cyberbullies looking for victims. They create identities that make our kids feel comfortable and lure them into sharing photos, addresses, and personal information.
Do use technology to stay in touch with kids. Technology isn’t terrible, in fact it can benefit our families in a variety of ways. Take advantage of social media, games, monitoring software, and texting features to communicate with your kids throughout the day.