It is not uncommon for parents to believe that things were simpler when they were growing up. Parents of the Millennium generation may have real cause to make such a supposition. Over the last several decades the world has changed. With the birth of the digital age came an ability to connect in ways that perhaps once seemed impossible. Parents of Millennium kids find themselves at a disadvantage however. These kids have been raised in a digital culture. It is true that many parents have caught up quickly. As with any new skill some parents have picked it up more easily than others. Many parents bemoan the fact that it all seems foreign to them. Even the savviest of social networkers is at a disadvantage if they were born before the birth of the digital age.
Today's parents do pretty well at keeping their children in check despite their disadvantage. Research reflects that tweens and teens are listening to their parents cautions to avoid offering too much personal information on the Internet. In addition most tweens and teens report that they would never meet with a stranger they met on the Internet.
For parents who feel less than competent about their ability to keep up with their tech savvy tweens and teens their are helpful resources these days to catch them up to speed. The greatest source of information is of course their technologically intelligent kids. Parents have an awesome opportunity to bond with their tweens and teens. When parents turn to their tweens and teens to teach them how to master social media, they also afford their kids the opportunity to feel empowered. At an age at which confidence building is important, this is a wonderful way for parents and their kids to engage in a give and take situation which is sure to encourage self-esteem in both parent and child.
Parents of Millennials however have indeed earned the right to express distress and at times perhaps concern. It seems as if their thumbs just don’t work as well as their supreme texting tweens and teens. Learning the texting lingo is quite a task. Just when this group of parents learns how to post on Facebook or tumblr their tweens and teens inform them that these sites are simply soooo passé. To try to keep up can be overwhelming. This makes a parent's job of monitoring quite difficult. Perhaps it will come as welcome news that research tells us that perceived monitoring is the best deterrent to tweens and teens interacting inappropriately on the Internet. To translate then, some parents may be relieved to learn that if they display apparent competence they can send the message that they are watching.
Parenting in the digital age has not only changed the way kids can communicate, it has also affected how they think and feel. There is power in numbers. Online forums that cater to adolescent angst offer tweens and teens a way to listen and learn that much of what they think and feel is quite common. The result is kids who seem to be more open about expressing themselves. Parents of this generation however, may feel ill equipped to handle the externalizing of some of these thoughts and emotions. Instilled in their culture growing up was the idea that children were seen not heard. In addition, there was a common understanding that some things you suffer alone. Dark thoughts and even feelings were to be carefully tucked away; anxiety was something to work through alone.
Social media’s online blogs, chat rooms, and messaging apps provide ways that kids can now connect. This ability is certainly not negative. It can feel empowering to know that the mood swings common to tweens and early adolescents are indeed experienced by others. Exchanging deep and sometimes dark thoughts with peers can be a welcomed release. The issue is not the ability to exchange these thoughts and feelings; it is instead parent’s preparedness in managing the output.
It’s not you, there really is more drama to deal with. We live in the age of self-focus. It is not surprising that our tweens and teens seem addicted to taking selfies. Drama begets drama. When one tween or teen reads or responds to another’s outpouring of woe and unrest it provides incentive for an even exchange. Parents are left wondering what they can and should do. The answers are never easy. Back to basic parenting entails consistent monitoring and constant communication. Today’s parents are charged with translating their children’s words and actions. Unlike in decades past externalizing thoughts and feelings is more common, our children are talking more honestly and openly. Of course this is not a bad thing, just something parents raised in another mindset need to learn to understand and manage. Discerning the difference between a fleeting case of the blahs and true depression for example, requires attunement and understanding. Parents need to watch for red flag signals to determine if their children are truly in distress or just expressing how they feel in the moment.
To put things succinctly, parenting has gotten more confusing and complicated. The next generation of parents born into the digital age are however sure to have an easier time. This generation of parents can at least take solace in knowing it’s really not your imagination!