CyberParent Power Topic of the Week
In a recent conversation with a mother of a teenager, she scoffed at the thought of trying to monitor social media. “The kids have so many ways to outsmart us. Social networks are everywhere and easy to access. You don’t need an account with an Internet service provider. Wireless is free and the kids know how to access it.” she said. “There is no way to prevent them from accessing the apps if they want to do it. There is so much we can not know.”
This realization terrifies many parents, especially the parents of younger children. My youngest sister has a six year old and she tells me that she and the parents she socializes with are dreading the day their children have a mobile phone because they know their children’s experience in the social network is risky and something they cannot really control.
No doubt cyber communication is a power crisis for the parent-child bond unprecedented in history.
Truly, children at very early ages have the world in the palm of their hand via wireless devices. And they are naturals at using the technology. And technology convergence happens at such an increasingly rapid pace; it is very difficult to keep up with the new social apps and devices.
And more importantly, anxiety is high in the social network, where everything is “situational” as one teenager put it. Our children get enough fear and fakery in their cyber-powered peer communities, so creating a home environment that values and respects every individual is more important than ever. It is also the key to keeping kids safe in the social network.
So the question in my mind, given these circumstances of an intensely disruptive, ubiquitous and pervasive technology that distracts us from the things that really matter, is how to we get our kids to be on the same page about their personal security and hope for the future?
Home is where free agents live
The most important way we can make home the safe place from all of the fear and fakery in the social network, is to show them that your house rules exist to teach kids to be free agents. Children can understand that to be a free agent means that you are in charge of how you spend your time and attention. So we want to get our children thinking about how they can demonstrate at home that they are free agents.
Take the focus away from the technology (the cyber realm), and orient your home around the realm of hearts and minds. Focus on your family values that free you from manipulation and unhealthy influences. One good example of a family value is personal safety. Every individual matters and is loved, so we are counting upon every family member to use their free will responsibly so they can be safe.
Sit down with your children and review your house rules with personal safety in mind. Ask your children for their input about the rules. Allow them to disagree and express their views. This is important because their childhood experiences are informing them differently, and you need to learn from them about what is happening with the technology, and they need to be heard in order to relate to your certain authority as the champion of personal safety.
Discipline as a form of liberation
Free agents are disciplined. The word “discipline” is a noun derived from the Latin word “disciplina”, teaching or learning.When our children are expected to make decisions and experience consequences, 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.
Today more than ever our children need this “discipline” or self-control. This moral compass 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.
So your compassion for their personal liberty and power expressed as discipline trumps the device.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17
Get your children talking about the ways in which everyone can be in charge of their time and attention. How do we exercise control? Give some examples of restraint. When your children realize that your aim is not to deny them freedom, rather it is to help them preserve their liberty, they will come home for answers. Below are some questions you can ask your children to think about to gain their interest in being a part of the family before connecting to the network.
- How does a rule benefit me? My sibling? My mom or dad?
- What rules are missing?
- What is the best way to know what I do not know about an app that is popular?
- How does the app serve me, my family and my friends?
- How does an app become misused? Give some examples.
- How can I avoid misusing an app?
- What control do I have over who sees my profile and the things I share and others share with me?
- Why is time away from the wireless device important? (Homework, chores, connecting with family)
Then create a family approved app list and encourage your children to only use the apps that are on the family approved list. When they realize they can have conversations about the role wireless devices and apps play your lives, and learn how to be in command of their own lives, they will come to experience home as a liberating experience.
For more about making your home the place to be: A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media.
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She 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, Tuesdays. Her next book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media will be released in the fall 2013.