No doubt there are unlimited apps, as new ones are popping up every day, that enable children to access educational routines, games, adult content, experiences and communities, including texting apps for free which 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 assigned phone numbers independently from your ISP. Other social media apps that are geared for adult audiences and are popular with youth include: Instagram, Tinder, ChatRoulette, SnapChat, Vine, and YikYak an AskFM which are anonymouse.
Last Saturday, St. Joseph Marello Catholic church hosted a symposium on navigating social media with your child. The primary aim of this workshop is to minimize anxiety parents have about the lack of control over the child and the technology, and strengthen the parent-child bond by a mindset of victory defined by our faith. 1 John 4:4 tells us that the power to overcome undue influence comes from the divinity within; we live in New Testament times and in a free society made possible by the mustard seed of faith that God’s sovereignty grants individuals intelligence and free will. That power cannot be taken by any force in the world, but it can easily be surrendered. So the conversations with youth about the social network must engage the hearts and minds of children to realize they have the power to choose not to surrender too much power.
Below are some of the tips for parents to get a handle on how kids are using apps.
Seek first to understand, and then be understood. There is a tendency to want to lecture and tell kids what to do, or say nothing for fear that you don’t know what to tell them because you don’t know what is happening. The most important thing a parent can do is get interested in what your child thinks, and get them talking about the apps and how kids are using them. Without open communication about what is going on, it is not possible to know what you need to know in order to impart wisdom.
Family-approved app list. Create a family-approved app list to train children to understand that downloading an app is not a trivial thing. Having a family policy in place to review the pros and cons of an app before downloading, promotes open communication so you can impart the wisdom of self discipline essential to maintaining a measure of control in the cyber social realm.
Today more than ever our children need to cultivate 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?
Parental controls. Keep in mind that parental controls are tools to train children to be in control over how the devices and apps are used. Like training wheels on a bike, eventually the child learns how to control the bike and the training wheels no longer serve a purpose. When the use of parental controls are perceived as training wheels to help the child develop their own sense of 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. By the time a child is entering middle school, there should be an open on-going dialogue about what is happening in their world on and off line.
For more about monitoring go to: Cyber Rites of Passage, age-appropriate boundary setting for use of cyber tools
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 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.