Claudia Gamar-Heinlein, former mayor of the City of Roseville, has concerns about how parents and grandparents can be effective custodians with the influence of cyber technology on young minds.
“My concern is that for many parents and grandparents, especially, it is difficult to understand the technology the kids are using,” she said. “Every generation brings with it something new with which previous generations struggle to comprehend. When I was growing up the adults were disparaging the television shows and eventually kids just tune out. Today especially, we have to have a level of acceptance so we can have an understanding.”
Gamar-Heinlein makes a fundamental point about the importance of accepting the technology and seeking to understand how our children’s experiences are informing them. The risk of not understanding is that we can become incredibly irrelevant, even perceived as obsolete; as our concerns expressed based upon our own childhood experiences completely miss the mark of what our children are witnessing, hearing about from their peers or actually experiencing.
In this regard, with every conversation with law enforcement on the topic of sexting, pedophiles, drug and alcohol abuse, and cyber-bullying, the same thing is stressed for parents: accept that the technology is here and the single most important thing that will protect children is to establish good communication about what is happening in their lives on and off line.
So the big question is: “What constitutes good communication?” What does that look like in a cyber-powered environment, where kids are conditioned differently for authority, and have the power to elude parental oversight? Below are a few tips to consider:
- Get genuinely interested in your child and the things that they are interested in as there will be opportunities to offer your instructional perspective in the context of their experiences
- Set up news feeds on various topics that will keep you informed of culture and technology trends impacting children (teenage addiction, bullying, texting, social media, Facebook, Instagram, iPhone, etc.) You can set up these feeds to be delivered via email monthly or weekly.
- Leverage some of the headlines in your news feeds as conversation starters and object lessons.
- Establish a no privacy rule, so everything on line is transparent. Parents must monitor communications.
- Establish a family approved app list wherein children present the apps they want to use and get approval before downloading or accessing (this is true for texting and social media as well as games). By having an agreed upon procedure to introduce new apps, it affords both the parent and child an opportunity to bond around the most important thing: how is this app going to make life better for me, my friends and my family? And how will I stay safe on line using this app?
For more about bonding with your tweens and teens for the safe use of texting and social media, go to: A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media
- Banana Moments: Help for Parenting in the Network Culture
- Safe strategies for using texting and social media apps
- CyberParenting Topics on The Fish 103.9FM
- Follow Joanna @CyberParenting
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