The children of today are really no different to those of years gone by. They want to hang out with their mates, they want to be included in social groups, they want to take risks and push boundaries, and they want to explore who they are in relation to their peers and to the rest of the world.
The big difference however, is the world in which our children now live.
In the past, these experiences were gained in places that were relatively private. In bedrooms, schoolyards, in local parks and shopping centres. Places where the surroundings were known, controlled and familiar.
Today the setting is very different. They still want privacy. They still want a space to explore. They still want to be in charge of who hears what they have to say.
But privacy means having the ability to control a situation and the ability to have control over audience, context and reach. The minute we upload a photo, update a status or engage in any online communication, we have lost that control. We have lost that privacy.
Herein lies the conundrum for adolescents of today.
They are exploring their private lives in the most transparent of public settings.
It is true we can teach them technical strategies to help keep things private. We can play with privacy settings, make lists and press delete, but we should never rely on these measures when the integrity of our children’s digital reputation is at stake.
The challenge for parents therefore, is to help educate on the protection of their children’s personal information, to be safe, secure and look after their online persona, whilst all the while accepting a child’s need for a space to test their identity.
As part of this they have secrets they want to keep from others, including their parents and they want to push the boundaries.
They don’t necessarily want to do this in public, but they are.
In everyday communities and in the past, we have been more naturally private, and if we want something public then it requires effort. In the online world however, it is reversed. We are naturally public, but if we want something kept private, it requires a lot of effort.
Adults need to be clear about the role they play. We need to guide, educate and support every facet of their lives, both online and off. We need to help them recognise the blurring of the private with the public.
And online, we now have a whole new set of social skills we must teach.