Cyber network trends for parents to watch

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Photo: qthmasbower (FLickr)

As children access Internet powered applications and tools, including social media (Facebook and MySpace) as well as popular search engines like Google and Yahoo, they can feel like they have everything they need to know.

The children of the Web are conditioned to ignore adults as credible sources of information and at the very best the voices of parents become “noise” to children.  Taking charge of family life in this network culture requires that the cover of parental protective authority be established with this understanding. In the network culture, authority is less ascribed and more the result of rapport which is increasingly hard to achieve in a culture where children are seduced into friend communities and commercial influence alive with action 24 hours a day, seven days a week outside the home and classroom.

Capturing and holding your child’s attention long enough to focus on truth, core values and connection to family is the crux of the matter.

At the household level, some of the cyber safety concerns resulting from this transformation include:


  • General disconnect between children, parents and families
  • Over dependence upon friends and friend communities as points of reference for life
  • Pedophile access to children
  • Easy access to drugs and alcohol
  • Degrading values, norms, and beliefs of popular culture reinforced as truth


So this is to present some current trends and features that can catch parents off guard if we are not forward thinking about the personal security implications for our family members.

  • GPS-enabled applications and tools are being introduced for a variety of purposes, such use as disable mobile phones when the car is moving to prevent distracted driving. Facebook recently introduced a GPS enabled application function for developers.
  • Multiple platforms and wireless technology create a requirement to think like “network managers” and track mobile phone, laptop, desk top computers, video game systems.
  • The “like” button on Facebook for example enables the sharing of personal preferences, and leaves a door open for access to sending newsfeeds to our children–giving rise to the term “News Feed Spam”. It’s very easy to set up “Like” buttons that trick you into “liking” something that you don’t by disguising the URL. Once you hit a “Like” button, and you remove it from your news feed, it is still associated with your profile. It will be very hard for our children to grow and reinvent themselves with social media baggage tenaciously served up by exploitive entities (perverse or commercial) who access profile data.

Tips for parents:

  • Establish house rules for cyber technology.  Transparency is key. No secrets, no surprises.
  • Establish a schedule for unplugging from the network. Some examples include a specific time in the evening to shut down phones and charge overnight in a centrally located place. And “no texting” while at the dinner table, while doing homework, or in conversation with family.
  • Become familiar with the tools and applications your children seek and use. Discuss with your child the value of using such tools. What purpose do they serve? Is this purpose consistent with our family values?
  • Mobile phones with Internet access issued only to youth who have demonstrated capacity for responsible use (much like giving the keys to a car).
  • Make sure that your child knows to discuss all applications with you prior to downloading or using – especially ones that are GPS-enabled.  Obviously the ability to locate your child should not be accessed in the open systems of social media networks (like Facebook, MySpace and Foursquare).
  • One of my readers, a father of four in grades Kindergarten through seven, recommends a router-based monitoring solution called, iBoss, to monitor all of the different tools and applications (mobile, desk top, video games) your family may use.


Photo: Christy Benz

Joanna Jullien

Joanna married her high school sweetheart and over the past 25 years they have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from UC Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture) and has over 20 years experience as a professional manager in information technology, manufacturing, energy and environment.

Joanna writes on parenting in the 21st century, as she has observed and personally experienced many strains on the parent-child relationship with the advent of the Internet, mobile phones and popular culture.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.