Parenting and growing up is complicated by internet connectivity. Kids are equipped with devices as young as eight years old and they are tech savvy, but not wise to the ways of the world. And many parents cannot imagine how it is truly possible for their children at any age to have the world in the palm of their hands with mobile devices – especially ones that are set up with children’s apps. Kanye West’s recent rant about his two-year-old daughter’s spending spree to rack up a large bill downloading apps using his iPad which he had set up with children’s apps, is a classic example of parents caught off guard about “the internet of things”. And that is the “E” version of the kinds of connections children can make. Pedophiles are adept at identifying and connecting with young hearts and minds on-line, and internet porn also presents itself to the very young who can become addicted. Every wireless device is a gateway to the world; yes, they have real time communication capabilities with people from around the globe, of all ages. On line gaming is incredibly popular for youth and engages them to interact with all kinds of people, emotional reactions to gaming events, and agendas. One of the ways pedophiles collect information from gamers, for example, is to pepper them with questions posing as someone their own age such that the child does not realize they are being stalked.
And the biggest challenge for parents is social media. Social media are the apps that enable individuals to create a profile, a persona of sorts, and create a social network of connections with friends and strangers alike in very clandestine ways. It is so much easier for kids to keep secrets, which harbor risks, and is often confused with privacy. Furthermore, social networking apps are dynamic and the innovation is relentless. Every day youth are exposed to the latest digital hangouts – most of it is adult swim, content that features bullying (ask.fm, YikYak), addiction (drugs and alcohol glorified) and exploitation (gratuitous sex and consumer hype). This reality of the cyber realm, this brave new world can be intimidating to confront if you are the parent of a middle schooler. A recent Contra Costa Times article featured awareness with the title: “There is nothing simple about parenting in the digital age”. Well, I beg to differ.
The simple truth about parenting tech-savvy kids
There is no way any parent can control the apps and circumstances your child may encounter. While you can do responsible things like setting up parental controls and filters, at the end of the day, we must accept that there will be much of our child’s cyber social realm that is not in our control. So we must focus on the things that we can do – and that is educate them about the wise use of texting and social media, by engaging their hearts and minds. Below are a couple of simple things every parent can do to educate their child to be cyber-safe while using texting and social media tools.
- Be present with your child. Give him or her undivided attention when you are with them and/or they are asking something of you. Get interested in who your child is and what interests them. What you care about is what interests your child, not how many different apps there are out there.
- Get educated about what is trending in the cyber-social realm by receiving news alerts. You can set up google news alerts for “teens and social media” for example.
- Establish a Family-Approved App” listing for your home. This is a master list of the apps that every individual is using, and the house rule is that before you download an app, especially a free one, talk about it. The only apps that are okay to be using are the ones that have been discussed and approved. The reason for this is to ensure that there is no malware and that your child has a chance to think through the pros and cons of spending time using an app. When you engage your child in the reasons why they want to invest time and energy into an app, you learn something about them and it is an opportunity for you to impart your wisdom.
The aim is transparency. No secrets, no surprises.
Get your guide on how to establish cyber boundaries as empowerment
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ABOUT: Banana Moments Foundation is a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. The BMF mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all BMF proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your Donations are greatly appreciated.
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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- Email: Jullien@surewest.net
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.