Digital Parenting by the Ages
Growing up in a digital world, our children are adopting technologies—touching, seeing and interacting with them, and ultimately, understanding the world through the lens of these tools—at younger and faster rates than ever before. As a parent, it’s worthwhile to pause and think about what this means for children at all ages, considering everything from brain development to socialization, physical safety and, of course, cyber ethics and cyber safety.
There was a time when the childhood lessons of “don’t talk to strangers,” and the “golden rule” were enough to keep kids safe. These lessons could be applied to more mature circumstances as the child aged and because kids learned them young, they were better equipped to make safe decisions when they got older. But times have changed. Technology happened. Today, kids have unfettered access to internet-enabled screens, likened to taking the front door off the family home and inviting strangers—potentially dangerous ones—in to play.
Parenting has never been easy. But parenting in the Digital Age has brought with it new challenges that must be addressed to ensure the health and well-being of our kids. The mistakes our children can make—posting something that gets them kicked off a team or refused entry to the college of their choice or connecting with a child predator who grooms them over time—has the potential to haunt them for the rest of their lives, or worse yet, put them in a life or death situation.
The reality is that there is no one-stop prescriptive formula for keeping kids safe online. Technology changes very quickly, so the approach of merely advising on the apps or platforms to use/avoid or specific direction on parental controls is not effective enough. Our children need adults guiding them towards safe and appropriate behavior. They need their parents and caregivers to treat the virtual world like the playground that it is and establish safety protocols early in child development. Parents then must refresh these lessons again and again as the child ages.