Keeping Up With Our Digital Children: Behind the Screens

Parenting in all generations has had its’ challenges, however in today’s digital society it has created a new world of parenting concerns—in addition to offline parenting. It’s back to school, and our children’s digital devices and online access is only going to increase in the coming days.  How do we keep up?  It is all about what happens behind the screens and offline parenting that is important.

It’s a fact, having
“the talk”
 doesn’t only mean about the birds and the bees anymore.  Before any child is handed a keypad of any kind, parents should discuss; digital citizenship, cyber-safety, how to report online abuse and above all your child needs to know that having any type of tech gadget is a privilegenot a right.  If they abuse this privilege, there will be consequences. Having a family Internet safety contract in place is recommended.

Be very clear on your consequences and always follow through.  It is important that your child know that as a parent you will be monitoring them.  This way there are no surprises, it isn’t about not trusting them, it is about their safety and well-being.

Monitoring verses snooping

Your child’s safety is a priority. Monitoring is parenting. When safety trumps privacy, snooping is your last resort.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, many teens don’t tell their parents they are being bullied online for a variety of reasons. This can cause for emotional scarring that is unnecessary if addressed early.

You may notice behavioral changes such as:

  • Secretive and withdrawn
  • Change in appetite
  • Changing friends
  • Failing, underachieving in school
  • Sadness and signs of depression

Keeping up with the latest digital trends

Kids and teens are usually ahead of their parents when it comes to apps and tech trends.  An open dialogue with your kids is better than spying and snooping.  This starts early with a genuine interest in their digital lives.

The truth is monitoring systems and parental controls are only useful to an extent. This is why it is imperative that your child is taught digital awareness offline so that when they are faced with difficult situations online they are better equipped to handle them. This is not to discourage parents from having monitoring programs in place, but you have to face the reality that especially teens are cyber-savvy and will find ways to escape monitoring systems. This is why it is so important they have cyber- skills to make good choices when you are not arounddigitally.

New apps and social media sites

Just ask!  Make it a habit to ask your kids if they have downloaded any new apps lately – or what their favorite sites are.  Learn about their digital lives and where they cyber-surf.  Make this a frequent conversation.

Want to find out more? Ask your child’s friends or your friends kids for the latest app or social media (networking) site they have joined or downloaded lately.  Engage in a conversation of why they like it and what it offers. This will give you an idea of where other kids are hanging online. It’s amazing how much your child’s friend’s love to speak to parent’sother than their own!

After SnapChat the big trend is the disappearing message apps that are saturating online stores and becoming increasingly popular with users of all ages.

It is not about the app, it is about having the knowledge to
click-out
when you know you are in a dangerous or risky area online or situation. We often hear about websites, such as CreepyPasta, only after there is a tragedy.

The fact is, although the site might not be where we want to have our kids lingering, it’s not the site that harmed the teenager. It’s the choices the teens make. It goes back to offline parenting.

Parenting our children offline is what will give our children online character and social behavioral skills online to make better choices when they are surfing cyberspace on their own. This includes decisions to download appropriate apps and use social media sensibly.

Friends, family and cyber-mentors:  Share and share alike

The best tip for parents for online safety is keeping your offline communications open. Discussing digital safety, cyberbullying, online scams, password security, new apps, new sites and all things tech should be part of your family conversation same as how was your day at school or your summer camp adventures.

It’s a fact, most teens and parents are attached to their technology. I am confident there is something everyone can share at the dinner table about the Internet whether it is new website or app they learned about that day. Become each other’s cyber-mentor.

Let’s not wait for national headlines to have a conversation. Let’s not wait for another youth suicide to talk about the digital world.

Keeping up with technology is almost impossible, but keeping up with our child is not only possible – it’s necessary. It’s all about making it your prioritybe sure you have several family dinners weekly and have those tech talks often, they are important to get behind the screens of your kids!

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