Growing up and parenting are deeply affected by cyber connectivity, as children are natural born users of technology which is constantly changing and requiring well-informed adaptation. And so there is much education required on the part of parents in order to provide the guidance kids need in their cyber social realms.
Earlier this month, blogger Rich Schwartzman reported about sound advice from Bucks County Deputy District Attorney, Mark Walz, who spoke to a group of parents at Kennett Middle School in Landenberg, Pennsylvania earlier this month. According to the report, Watz advises parents to consider five main areas of guidance: 1) protect personal information, 2) safely interact with others through technology, 3) manage conflict and danger, 4) avoid risky behavior and 5) manage their digital footprint.
I have found that there are essentially three main reasons many parents are not adequately preparing youth for mobile connectivity.They are:
- Illusion of “parental controls”. Many parents believe that setting up parental controls is sufficient protection. Yet kids are tech savvy, and they are very capable of overcoming parental controls at very early ages. So relying upon parental controls is not a solution, it is more like training wheels on a bike which very quickly come off after the child has mastered riding two wheels.
- Overwhelmed by “tech-savvy” and worldly kids. Kids are confident, digital natives. And many parents lack confidence in their inherent authority to govern the home and educate the child about what it means to be in control of yourself and to not give up power to the bully, the drug or the device.
- “Not my child” syndrome. Parents are not aware that their children, no matter how “good” they are, can wind up saying and doing things on-line that will haunt them, as more employers are using Google and social media to evaluate candidacy. Every child is vulnerable to believing and acting on the wrong things.
Strategic focus: Establish boundaries as empowerment
It is not reasonable for parents to control the technology or the child. But parents can impart social media wisdom, which is about balancing rules and relationships. The aim is to help your child write their own on-line rules for their cyber social realm, predicated on your house rules which are about setting boundaries that enable your child to defend their own liberty. Some of the fundamentals for conversation are below:
- Teach responsibility that accompanies rights – such as free speech. You have the power to choose what to say and when to say it, and there will be consequences. Teach your children to consider their motive when they are responding to something on-line, especially when there is emotion involved. Ask yourself, is my aim to bring about peace or to disturb the peace?
- Consider cyber technology a rite of passage, not a right. Much like learning to drive a car that comes with great responsibility. So an example of responsibility is managing access to wifi with an appreciation for the risks involved. Make sure that you password protect your home wifi, and train your children to be careful about using free wifi that can make you vulnerable to hackers and other bad actors.
- ‘Friend’ parity check. In your social network, friend only those people you know and trust in person. It is very easy for bad actors (pedophiles and identity thieves) to gather enough personal data through social media to appear trustworthy. And also, the more peers in your network who are not personally invested in your well-being, the greater the risk of getting caught up in bully dynamics. It is easy to be mean from behind the screen. So teach your kids not to pad their social networks with high numbers of kids from different schools they do not really know.
- Clarify private and secret. Private is personal stuff you keep from the world because not everybody is trustworthy. Trust is built over time and experience. While secrets harbor risk. That is why as the guardian of your child’s personal security until the age of majority, you as the parent will monitor your child’s on line activity, and respect their privacy (by not blabbing their personal business to people who do not need to know).
To learn more about the five elements of family culture and cyber rites of passage essential to communicate wisdom, go to: Fresh Start.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. Trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, she is a mother of two grown sons, an author of books on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.
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Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.