Parents who are bringing up children right now - you, me and every other one out there - are living in a time where things change so fast that some barely even find out about one innovation before something new comes along to replace it.
So, how do we raise responsible children in this age of connectedness and sharing?
I have a few ideas:
- Moderation - I'm not a big fan of the word balance. I think it looks too different from one person to another, but moderation is easier to grasp. Having an active life online can be a hobby and/or a job and/or an obsession. Maintaining interests outside of the online world helps keep you grounded and prevents obsession. We need to teach our children how to use these tools in a healthy manner.
- Education - Parents need to learn what's happening online and know how to use the tools. It's not uncommon for parents to be uninterested but for their kids to be heavily active. That worries me. It leaves what can be (or become) a major facet of a child's life untouched by the guidance of a parent.
- Exposure - <rant>It bugs me that social sites have been forced by law to institute age limits - 13 and older only. As a parent, it is my job to decide what sites, when and how much my child is online.</rant> My point in that little rant is that early exposure is actually good. Let's teach children from a young age how to incorporate online tools into their lives safely and develop healthy use habits.
- Privacy - On this subject, I could go on and on and on. If you are typing words into a device that saves or transmits data in any way, you have no guarantee of privacy. Screen captures, hard drive recoveries, ISP data - these are just some of the places where that data can be obtained. Children need to understand that what they say on any device - connected or not - matters. Choose words wisely!
- Kindness - Also, empathy and compassion. It's far too easy to let loose online without regard for the person on the other end, but the point is that there is a person on the other end and words do hurt. The written word is a powerful thing. We need to teach our children that bullying, judgmental attitudes and meanness are not okay - online or off.
It blows my mind that my son will never know what it's like not to have some sort of computing device readily available in his life. I remember what those days were like. I remember going to the library to look up everything I needed to know to write a paper. The analog age was time-consuming, wasn't it? Personally, I don't have any desire to go back to that, though I understand why some do.
We need to embrace these changes that technology and the Internet have brought to our lives so that we can teach our kids to use the tools at their disposal properly.
What is your biggest concern for your children growing up during this time?
Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (3), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. Most recently, she can be found at Wellman Wilson, helping business use social media more effectively.