“Prevention is better than the cure”. An important philosophy that highlights the need to be proactive with many aspects of our lives.
When it comes to cyber safety and digital parenting, it is a philosophy we certainly need to be espousing and working hard to ensure becomes the norm in both our teaching and our attitude.
Gone are the days when we hear something bad happened on an app so we simply ban it. Gone are the days when we can say ‘don’t talk to people online if you don’t want to get bullied’. Gone are the days where we simply took away the technology for weeks at a time in order to handle a transgression or counter a tantrum.
The technology and the devices are now so intricately and completely woven in to the fabric of our lives, and more importantly into the lives of our children, that we would be neglectful to simply rely on these reactive measures to keep them safe and smart and in control.
We try valiantly to drum in to our kids the dangers of a life lived largely online. We highlight the bad things that happen to others in order to prevent them happening to our own offspring. But is even this type of preventative teaching enough? Sometimes it is. Some kids hang on every word, scared by the notions of predators lurking behind the screen, or a life in ruins after a misplaced tweet or the social suicide that comes from an embarrassing photo or video that goes viral. Sometimes our words of warning are enough for these kids. But increasingly, research and experience shows us, that simply raising awareness does not always translate in to long term changes.
What we need then is not someone saying “don’t play with that, don’t be on your device, don’t engage in conversations online because you will get in to trouble, don’t let anyone know who you really are and just turn it off and walk away”. Sure, it may help prevent some of the bad things happening. But stay inside all day and your much less likely to get hit by a bus.
What we need for our children is experience, responsibility and the skills to be safe and smart. We don’t get any of that from shutting everything down. That’s not to say we don’t need technology and device free times. We need to ensure we have a culture of balanced play so that we are educated and entertained from a variety of means. But it does mean we need to understand that most of what our children are experiencing online, is beyond the realm of what many parents understand.
So we need to ensure it is in our realm of understanding. Not necessarily on the same level, because lets face it, parents and teens have never done that. But we need to have some understanding, some knowledge and some perspective so that we can remain ahead of the game. Or at the very least, within reach.
- play games with them and get to know what and why they enjoy what they do
- get to know the apps they are using. You don’t have to follow every move they make, just be aware of what the apps are capable of and what the kids are using them for
- Look at some newsfeeds with your kids and point out the people that do social media right and those that do it all wrong….those that overshare, are nasty, embarrass themselves, embarrass others etc. Discuss, don’t just lecture.
- Let them play around with social media whilst you can still keep an eye on what they are doing and ‘teach’ them how to behave. Use these early days as a real teaching opportunity. A window that may be closed all too soon.
- Know that this is the world your child is growing up in and it is the only world they have ever known. We need to come to terms with incorporating the technology in to our lives. We must embrace and promote the opportunities that it offers rather than simply looking for ways to avoid it and minimise the effects.
Doing these things will allow us to be proactive in this space. It will give our children the confidence to make the very best choices and remind them that we are still relevant to their world.