Who will the digital natives follow? Parental authority in the digital age

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

This week’s topic on The Fish103.9FM (Tuesdays 6:40 and 7:20am)

Digital natives and authority

Digital natives are young people, under 25 years, who cannot imagine the world without the Internet and cyber communications. It is a boundary-less, no limits, “it’s all about me” environment.

They are conditioned for authority differently. 

Photo: Lars Plouqmann (Flickr)

They do not recognize authority as a formal structure like previous generations when off-line adults were primary resources for knowledge and wisdom.  Titles like president, parent, teacher…do not carry the formal authority to digital natives like it did for generations past.

Today, kids believe they can Google anything and everything they need to know, and they are empowered by cyber connectivity to meet and exchange ideas and information without the stewardship of adults.

It can be liberating feeling, but it is not truly liberation, for without the wisdom and life experience of parents and other adults in their lives our children can fall into dangerous bondage.

The earlier we can help our children embrace authentic boundaries that promote their personal security and respect for others, the more secure they will be and the less likely they will be vulnerable to the risks of cyberbullying, on-line predators, drug and alcohol abuse, and anxiety.

So what is a parent to do?

Relational authority/ Boundaries and self-governance

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

The blessing in this cultural shift of from formal authority to relational authority means that our children are seeking authentic relationships wherein we can impart wisdom and knowledge. We can form deeper, more rich relationships with our children as leaders, much like Jesus’ model.

  • Meet people where they are, without judgment
  • Speak truth with mercy
  • Offer to lead to higher ground
  • Honor free will and never give up on them

In the first decade we are setting firm boundaries for how and when to use cyber technology. During the boundary setting period, our ultimate goal is to provide our children with an internal guidance system:

Boundaries are in the form of house cyber rules that express your values and promote personal security for individuals and the family. Some examples include:

  • The use of the Internet applications and mobile phones is a privilege, not a right.
  • Establishes age-appropriate use of tools and applications. Be very clear at what age you will allow a child to use, or own, a mobile phone.
  • Transparency is mandatory. Children should expect that you will be monitoring their communications and searches.
  • Designate a time at night to turn off cyber tools: disconnect in order to re-connect face to face
  • Keep a list of all your child’s applications and tools. Make it a requirement that you approve prior to downloading any application.
  • Teach your child to ask him or herself, will Mom or Dad be proud if I send this post or text? Does it reflect our family values for self respect and respect for others?

The personal investment in establishing house cyber rules is an opportunity to relate to your child about the safe and secure ways they can use the technology. It is a bonding opportunity setting the stage for the second decade when our children are given more freedom to make decisions and establish an on-line presence without direct supervision.

We want our children be secure cyber citizens. Authoritative parents are strategic in this regard.

Helping children to recognize authentic boundaries for their personal security in a cyber-powered world with no limits is critical. Without authentic boundaries, our children are more vulnerable to the lies of popular culture and the manipulations of the ‘net.”

The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture - A Parent's Voice in the Cyber Wilderness

For more about parental and genuine authority in the network culture, check out Joanna’s ebook: The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture – A Parent’s Voice in the Cyber Wilderness available through SmashWords in all formats including iPad, Kindle, Nook and PDF. $7.99

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) 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.