This post is sponsored by Trend Micro to promote the “What’s Your Story?” contest, encouraging kids to get creative online as part of Stay Safe Online Week.
When I give a presentation about the best way to parent in the world of technology and online spaces, my message is always the same. Regardless of the changes that take place everyday, regardless of the fear that permeates in the media everyday, as parents we have one choice. That choice is to accept the online world, learn all we can about it and make a concerted effort to understand how our children are attempting to make sense of themselves in these public spaces. Ultimately we must embrace what is a relatively new world for many of us, but the only world our children have known.
If we are going to do that successfully, we need to allow ourselves to look at all the wonderful and positive elements to a life online. Sure we need to be alert to the risks and dangers, be monitoring, guiding, teaching and enforcing boundaries. If we want our kids to continue to come to us when things go wrong and if we want to maintain a close relationship throughout their adolescent years, then we must let them know that we ‘get it’. We understand that they are making important social connections, that they are happy to use this as their downtime, their source of information and entertainment. That this is where they hangout for their back and forth banter, gossip and “what sup?” chat. If we make ourselves aware of what kids are doing online, then we are far better placed to remain relevant to them as time goes on.
I have written many times before about the way technology can be a positive addition to families. We know that technology helps us stay better connected, we can keep in touch, we can relax a little knowing our kids are only a phone call away. We know technology can help with learning and education. Children with disabilities are seeing huge advantages using devices in the classroom. The technology is making the world a smaller place. Our kids have access to greater information from around the world, a better understanding means a greater chance at empathy. Kids are rallying for social causes that they feel strongly about and the online world and social networking sites makes it much easier to garner information and support. And whilst we know interactions online are sometimes negative and destructive, there are those who feel they get a sense of connection and support online that they may not always experience in ‘real life’.
I recently spoke to a mum who had concerns about her son, believing that something was troubling him. He was unable to talk to her so from the next room she sent him a text message telling him that she is happy to hear about anything that is upsetting him. He then proceeded to write all he was feeling to his mum via text messages that went back and forth. The mother was quite certain she wouldn’t have had the same response had he have to look her in the eye and explain the same thing. So as parents we can be on the lookout for how we can use the technology to maintain those connections with our kids. It doesn’t mean we go and comment on every update they post on their social networking sites (because that would just be embarrassing), but we mustn’t dismiss the many ways we can use the technology to enhance our family life.
Creatively, the technology does allow us to do many amazing things. These are the things we need to encourage. The photo editing, the movie making, the blogging, the design, artwork and music can all be put on display to help create a positive digital footprint.
This year, Trend Micro are again running their “Whats Your story” contest, encouraging kids aged 8 to 18 to submit either a 2 minute film or a poster, that depicts how young people can remain safe whilst ‘on the go’ on their mobile devices. I love ideas like this that get kids thinking creatively as well as spreading a positive message. If your child would like to enter, or if you know kids that would, then please share this post and head to the Trend Micro 2014 Whats Your Story website for all the details.
And if you would like to win a Trend Micro Maximum Security protection for multiple devices (blocking dangerous websites, protecting privacy, secure banking, safeguarding sensitive files and protecting against identity theft) valued at $129, then simply write in the comments about a positive experience you or your family have had as a result of hanging out in the online world. Competition closes Friday 13th June 5 pm AEST. Only open to Australian residents.