It’s no secret that we are now living in an almost exclusively digital age. The abundance and accessibility of social media means that children today are growing up in a tech motivated atmosphere, of which social media is a huge part. In the past, it seemed reasonable to restrict children’s usage of the internet, and social media, especially. But these days, it is becoming more and more difficult, as so many aspects of life are becoming intrinsically linked to an online world.
For lack of a better phrase, we are “plugged in”, and so are our children.
On the one hand, it is important for children to become familiar with all things digital, as they are in fact generation tech, a group whose future success will largely depend on their ability to comfortably interact via social media. On the other hand, they are only children, and it can sometimes be difficult to know whether they are properly grasping the responsibility attached to the use of social media and having an online presence.
For example, one study has shown that children aged 9-15 who engaged in social media were more likely to value things like fame and money. And then there is the ever-frightening thought of how vulnerable a person can be to predators online, and to cyber-bullying. The list of ways a child can be violated online goes on and on, especially when they are too able to put themselves in positions to be taken advantage of.
The solution? The most obvious is of course to make rules. But perhaps more significant is to be willing to speak openly to children about all of the dangers, and responsibilities that come with the digital age. Jim Taylor, author of Raising Generation Tech: Prepare Your Children for a Media-Fueled World, has suggested that it is up to parents to be involved and ask difficult questions, like ‘what kinds of kids do we want our kids to be?’
Know what you want your children to get out of the digital age, and know what your limits are. For example:
- Many cites, including FaceBook, have their own age limits. Be respectful of them, and teach your children the importance of following them as well.
- Never underestimate the power of privacy settings. Yes, many kids know how to reset them, but if you have a family discussion about why they are there, they will understand the value of them and be more respectful.
- Be direct about what the do’s and don’ts are. Instil in your children an understanding that the internet is a privilege that can be taken away, and be willing to follow through.
At the end of the day, it’s not just about setting rules and guidelines, but about being able to have open discussions about why they are there.