online safety

2 Things Parents must do to Effectively Parent with Technology and the Online World

The rapid advances in technology have meant rapid changes to the way our children live their lives, and subsequently to the way we must parent. The changes to the way we get information, the way we are entertained and the way we interact and socialise are all being dictated by the technology that now permeates our every being.

As someone who has taken a passionate interest in how we parent with these changes, I believe there are 2 important elements we must get right in order to help our kids.

1. We absolutely must change with the technology and continually readjust and reevaluate our thinking and our teaching as the world advances and as our children grow

and

2. We must constantly strive to understand and see things from our children’s perspective.

If we refuse to learn, grow and change with the technology, then we become irrelevant to our kids.  Becoming irrelevant to our kids means they do not confide in us when things go wrong. They set up power games to beat our systems and they relish the control that the technology gives them.

My rules for my own family have changed as the technology has spread its influence. I have come to realise that there is a lot I cannot protect my kids from anymore. I can help them process things they have seen, I can help them deal with negative experiences, I can implement strategies to protect them for longer and I can help them play a positive role in any given situation, but I cannot ever be sure that my ideals for their experiences are being met.

When I started out parenting I thought I would have a good handle on everything they did. I thought I would set up safe filters, allow minimal access to social networking sites and never allow violent video games. Needless to say much of that has changed. Not because I am soft or cannot be bothered. But because I have changed in my understanding of this world. I still talk, connect, guide, teach and support, but my rules today are very different than they were even 2 years ago.

My older kids went from Leapstar, to plug n play games, to Nintendo DS, to an xbox, an ipod touch and now to a phone. My middle child skipped the first few and went straight to a Nintendo DS and the 4 year old will likely go straight to an iPod touch. The 2 year old will probably be calling me form his cot on his new iphone 5s. (just kidding) But he will probably have a device when he heads off for his first day of school.

So the way we have had to approach the technology has had to change for all of them. When it comes to the rules, the boundaries, the dangers, the capabilities and the potential of the technology, it is all vastly different even for my 10 year old today than it was for my 13 year old 3 years ago.

Every time I give a presentation on Parenting with Technology it changes. The basic principals stay the same but the rules, the examples and the advice can all change. Already it is evident that much of the information we have heard at cyber safety talks and read in internet safety pamphlets in recent years is outdated and no longer relevant.

Such as…..

“Just keep the computer in a central part of the house and you will stop your kids from seeing bad things”. Devices are now portable, kids as young as 5 are getting compulsory internet enabled devices and kids will always hang out at other kids houses or stop by McDonalds for some free wifi.  Put your own safety filters and blocks in place, but do not presume the only time your kids are seeing stuff online is when you are around.

“Check the search history of your kids browser so you know what they have been looking at”. Kids learnt a long time ago how to delete a history.

“Dont let your kids open a Facebook account”. Kids will find another app or site to connect with people that you haven’t cottoned on to yet. In fact many are moving away from Facebook as that is where all the grown ups hang out. Teach them how to behave online wherever they are going to play.

“Dont go on social networking sites. Bad stuff happens on there and people get bullied” . Of course they do. Teach them kindness, empathy and strategies to deal with it should it happen.

“Only stick to the sites the cyber safety expert told you were safe”. A 13, 14 or 15 year old will hang where his mates are hanging. You would not go to the park where no friends were playing and our children wont either.

We cannot say “you are not even talking about anything. It is just hiya, hows it hangin, wtf, whatcha up to?”  Isn’t that the same stuff they’d be saying if they did meet up at a park?

If we do not attempt to understand their world from their perspective, we risk being unheard as a teacher and neglected as a support.

Whilst we may roll our eyes at their online banter, we may squirm at their violent video games and we may curse  the wasted hours spent tapping, texting and swiping, we must understand this is their world. It is the only one any of them have known.

If we want to have any chance at getting them through relatively unscathed, then we need to stop fighting it, accept what it is and what they are doing. We must continue to get the appropriate knowledge to help us remain relevant to our kids and to continue to be the greatest influence on how they live their lives. Both online and off.

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This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. I don’t want to say it ‘scares me’ as a parent with regards to the way technology is going, because that sounds like I’m powerless and I’ve given up already. But technology, and the potential ease of access for my children, is certainly something that I am concerned about. We have our guidelines at home, but I have also found that we have had to adapt them to what they were a few years ago. I totally agree with you that we need to see things from our children’s perspective in order to understand their world and maintain a good relationship with them.

    1. Thanks Deb. I agree we don’t want to seem afraid. But it is definitely something that isn’t going anywhere so we must ensure that even if it does scare us, we continue to learn and grow and change.

  2. Great advice Martine. Navigating today’s children’s digital world is confusing for parents, but you have clearly explained how important it is for parents to be involved (and not fearful). I agree that much of the information in cybersafety pamphlets and talks are now redundant as the technology is changing so quickly. Really valuable information.

    1. Thanks Kristy, I think it really is confusing for parents. There is so much advice about what to do and not to do but much of it fails to focus on the perspective of our kids. This is a world we created for them and now we have to learn to help them navigate it.

  3. As always, super relevant to me, and I could not agree more about having to change and adapt to the advances in technology. I often get concerned that my 10 year old doesn’t sit and draw as much, or do puzzles.. on the iPad alot though! But we are always on top of what the latest things they are ‘in’ to and they often just can’t shut up nattering to each about Minecraft this, or Roblox that! It is pretty cute to see how they interact with each other, (we have a server set up so they can play together safely). We have a 10, 7, 5 and 3 year old. #teamIBOT

    1. Sounds like you are already doing a great job. And there are some great skills to be learnt from Minecraft. PLaying together is a great way to really understand the appeal for the kids too.

  4. Really great advice. I will try really hard to remember it (or I’ll just bookmark it for later!) when my son is old enough to enter the world of social media! I always wonder what the “in” thing will be in 10 years, and whether or not I’ll have a clue what it is, and what he is doing! ha! -Aroha (for #teamIBOT)

  5. It’s a little daunting how quickly everything is changing. My ten year old is really innocent and thankfully hasn’t asked to go on any social media sites yet, so I’m lucky, but I also need to start having conversations for when she does.
    Oh so much to teach them!!!

  6. With a 3 year old, we are not at a stage for use of social media, that being said our 3 year old does watch videos on you tube. So I am keenly aware of the need for supervision at this stage. My view is that I rather keep up with technology now and be prepared for when we get hit with it, as you say technology is being accessed at a younger age. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Stephanie. Certainly kids using the technology at a younger age means more supervision and I am sure you will be well prepared when it starts to escalate!

  7. My friend lets her son on FB but as long as she can access it, it seems to work for them, so far! I dread when my kids try to sneak around on technology that’s why I’m to try and be very open about it!

  8. Fortunately I don’t have to worry about this yet! It really is difficult with technology being such a fast moving beast. Looking at things from your kids’ perspective is definitely key I believe.

  9. As always, a great post. I’ve said it before, but I love your blog for this stuff.

  10. I can’t believe parents lets their kids use Facebook! So many kids at my children’s primary school are users of social media with their own accounts – it’s insanity! Thankfully my kids are not interested as I wouldn’t let them anyway!
    A great read, thanks.

  11. I am going to say it scares me and not because I feel powerless or I’m a pushover, but I read and hear about all of these things happening with technology and kids and it’s going to be a real roller coaster. My son is 2 and I can only imagine what the technology is going to be like when he’s older. I guess I am from the generation who was the last to go through school wihtout a mobile phone (I guess I had one in grade 12 when I started driving but it just made calls), we had tapes and we were introduced to this thing called the internet and used MS-DOS style programs. It doesn’t only scare me regarding what they see, it scares me about how they will be socially, how they will learn, how they will experience and appreciate life with technology that can do everything for them.

    1. Thanks Eva. There is no doubt that it can be scary but I think it is so important that we focus those fears in to learning and understanding this world from the perspective of our kids. We need to constantly remain relevant to them and we can only do this if they think we have a good grasp on how things work. I am sure you will do just fine 🙂

  12. Fantastic post – thanks. The digital world is changing so rapidly. It’s irresponsible to let kids loose online without keeping up with what they’re doing.

  13. I totally agree that we need to keep our minds open on technology – be abreast on all the new trends and gadgets.
    I must say, it is really tiresome. Even I’ve dropped off Twitter and my time on FB and IG is nowhere near as what it used to be.
    But there’s all these changes that I’ve missed out on. And I guess, I just need to get back on board not just for the social aspect but for the educational as well.

  14. This could be one of the reasons why technology can really be scary. Without proper supervision we might not be able to guide our kids when it comes to online stuff and it’s our job to follow our kids’ online activities. And this is where things can get really complicated – how can we monitor them without invading too much of their privacy.

  15. obviously like your internet site however, you need to examine the punctuation on a number of you. A few of these are filled with punctuation challenges and I to find that extremely bothersome to see the facts however I will certainly go back yet again.

  16. This is a great post! Parents always bring up the “central location” advice. Not currently helpful when their kids all have iPod Touches and are texting in 3rd grade! Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  17. You are absolutely right! Me have to move ahead together with the technologies and understand how our children are experiencing the world. I can remember how my parents were not interested to start using with the computer. I come from a farmer family and my parents have never tried to understand the world of technologies. Actually now they have to do it because I moved to the city and we need to talk through Skype. Thanks for sharing!

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