Lieutenant Merv Screeton of the Roseville Police Department appreciates how hard it is for parents today. “The internet has put the kids way ahead of parents; it is very difficult to keep up,” he said. “Texting is a leap forward and the new demands on parents require a serious commitment.”
Clearly it is not a good idea to leave children alone for extended periods of time with wireless connectivity, and yet the wireless devices are issued like a pair of shoes or underwear. They become incredibly personal items, with which children quickly come to expect great autonomy - as the device becomes a major part of their identity around the clock, seven days a week.
Every law enforcement officer will tell you that kids get into trouble because they are allowed to isolate themselves and/or maintain privacy from parents about what is going on in their lives, on and off line. Compounding the problem is the rapid pace of technology development and convergence and how kids use it.
Screeton offers examples of how wireless connectivity via tablets and smart phones makes it so easy for kids to get involved in very risky activities, especially access to drugs via sites like Craig’s list.
“You can order meth from a dealer on line and they will deliver it to your home,” he said.
The plethora of communication channels and media, text apps (WhatsApp), social media apps (Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat,) are all converging (evolving to share the same functionality for networking, text communications and images) and becoming available on all devices from tablets to smart phones and PCs - making it very difficult to keep up. And because access to wireless apps does not require any kind of real certification, not even payment for an account, the barriers to entry for children are essentially null except for self-restraint.
And there are the interesting ways in which youth express themselves using the technology and the etiquette that evolves with it. A recent Business Insider article about texting language exposes how the emoticons have evolved into an alternative vocabulary - wherein teens are texting using the emjoji symbols to replace words (fingers making a “V” sign for “two”).
“We have all of these easy ways to communicate, and yet, the way we choose to utilize can sometimes leave us scratching our heads,” wrote the reporter, Caroline Moss.
Tips for parenting tech savvy kids
- Embrace the fact that your child will know more about the latest and greatest apps and devices. You will likely need them to give you tutorials on how things work, and how they use them.
- Get your kids interested and committed to cyber safety. Establish a family approved app list, wherein there is some sense of the different apps being used and by whom, with a review for approval. Be prepared to have conversations about it, wherein you do most of the listening. Ask the older siblings for advice about what to allow the younger siblings. The aim is to keep everything age-appropriate and transparent. No secrets and no surprises. Parents must have passwords for all apps.
- Engage your child in conversations about how to use the technology in ways that reflect their values. Have your child come up with some cyber safety rules based upon what they perceive the risks are, including cyberbullying, explicit images/porn, and inappropriate material explaining how to do harmful things like abuse drugs and alcohol, etc.
- Make it a priority to pay attention to your child, but not as a micromanagement effort. Actually get interested in who they are and what they are interested in and going through - without judging them or expressing your opinion. Let them have their point of view or emotion without your edit. You will learn something about your child. Find another opportunity to correct your child, not when they are expressing themselves sincerely to you.
- Model restraint when it comes to using technology. When your child comes to you with a question, put aside what you are doing and make the face time really count. Listen.
- Establish a time of day for turning off devices for the night.
- Banana Moments: Help for parenting in the social network
- Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media
- Roseville Police Department
- CyberParenting Topics on The Fish 103.9FM
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