Distracted living is the greatest challenge for growing up and parenting in the social network. It poses a strain on the personal attention devoted to nurture the parent-child bond. Because the technology seduces us away from being present when we are physically with others, we are not giving one another quality attention. Compounding the multi-tasking lifestyles we lead, is the fact that our children’s childhoods are informing them radically differently than our own. Parents are at risk of being perceived as ignorant or irrelevant as they offer feedback and instruction that does not factor in the reality of the child’s experiences on and off line.
The plethora of apps, over one billion and counting, enable children to access educational routines, games, experiences and communities including texting apps for free and they do not require a phone number assigned by your mobile communications company. Many parents do not realize, for example, that free texting apps, such as Kik and Whatsapp can be downloaded and assign numbers independently from your ISP. Other social media apps that are geared for adult audiences that are popular with youth include: Tinder, ChatRoulette, SnapChat, Vine, and YikYak.
Related resource: Cheat sheet for the social media apps kids are using today
“Parental control” versus self-control
- One of the most common temptations of the modern parent is to seek control over the devices and their children.
Parental control settings have limited value, more like the training wheels on a bike. Before long the child will master the device and the controls. Parental controls have value as instructive ways to engage and maintain an ongoing dialog with the child about purpose-driven use of the cyber tools.
When the use of parental controls are perceived as training wheels to help the child develop their own self control essential to be secure in the network, the signal conveyed to the child is one of confidence in their ability to become a responsible user. And so the aim of parenting with parental controls is to prepare the child to be in control, and for the parent to monitor in age-appropriate ways.
- Today more than ever our children need this “discipline” at early ages.
The moral compass communicated with use of parental control settings serves as an internal guidance system, and is the basis for personal security in a cyber-powered world that has the capacity to manipulate and exploit the individual. When our children are expected to make decisions and experience consequences, and given a birth to adjust their thinking and conduct, and then stand corrected; when we exude confidence in their ability to understand why certain behavior is not good for self and others, then it is possible to truly instill discipline.
Note: The word “discipline” is a noun derived from the Latin word “disciplina”, teaching or learning. In Webster’s Dictionary the first definition is “punishment”. The remaining definitions pertain to instruction, self control and a system of rules governing conduct. What type of discipline do you want your child to experience? What discipline do you believe will strengthen your relationship with your child, and help her be secure?
Cyber Rites of Passage
- Setting and maintaining age-appropriate boundaries in this web-enabled environment is tricky and achievable.
Ultimately the goal is to groom your child to be self-governing and responsible with the cyber-powered applications and tools. Rites of passage typically provide some definitive criteria for conferring roles, responsibilities, rights and privileges and social standing to individuals as they mature in society. It is a way of raising children into adulthood with tangible, meaningful markers openly recognized by the community. Some traditions as examples include baptism, marriage, coming of age (Bat and Bar Mitzvah). The rites of passage for use of cyber devices and apps are presented into five levels (see other side of this document): TinyTot, Early Ranger, Ranger, Early Explorer and Explorer. By the time your child has graduated to Explorer level (age 16) it is as if you are handing over the keys to the car. (Source: A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media—2011),
Most importantly, rites of passage give parents a way of helping children to appreciate delayed gratification does not mean “never”, rather it means “not now.”
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.