A recent survey found that 80% of parents in the United Kingdom feel that their children are growing up too fast, and the question remains who is in control? The technology (and media), the child or the parent? Many parents are granting unsupervised access to internet-powered devices at early ages, seven and younger, and there is a perception that the kids are growing up too fast. How can we shield children from the risky ideas and activities, the evil of predators, and lifestyles of popular culture and Hollywood that do not conform to our values?
Cyber rites of passage promote open communication and visibility of your child’s on-line experiences
- Focus on resiliency not innocence. It is tempting to believe that our job as parents is to shield children from evil and protect them from the images and ideas that are not in alignment with our values; our natural desire is to protect their innocence. The truth is that our child’s innocence is not something we can control, while individual resiliency, on the other hand, is something that can be learned at home. The individual resiliency comes from having a strong sense of family values rooted in your personal faith and that express standards of trustworthy character including honesty and respect for the individual. (See Fresh Start – Family Culture).
- Set age-appropriate boundaries to groom your child for responsible use of cyber tools. In this regard, parents can decide to govern the home by setting standards for media and age-appropriate access to devices and apps in a way that gives your child the opportunity to learn how to make good cyber-safe decisions and have meaningful conversations about the experiences that disturb the peace (such as bullying and exploitation).
- Accept that the chances are great that your child will be exposed to inappropriate content and ideas at early ages. Parents are primary teachers for life and the power to govern the home does not give us control over our children’s innocence. The reality is that mobile connectivity has created a power crisis for children and families wherein kids have access to people, ideas and images from all walks of life. There is no about of parental control that will shield children. And if our expectation is to have complete control over everything our children experience on-line, and the communication of boundaries is based upon fear and worry – then the signal the children receive from the parent is that it is not safe to talk about what is happening. The better signal is to be very interested in what interests your child, and communicate confidence in your child’s ability to handle age-appropriate use of devices and apps.
- Clarify the parent role as the guardian. This means that parents do not grant minor children privacy, but they do respect it by not sharing personal information without permission, nor micromanaging the details of your child’s life. So parents must inspect what they expect. We explain to our children that we have confidence in their ability to make good decisions, and we expect to catch them doing things right on and off line.
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.
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Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.