Parenting and Technology - You Can Swim but can You Tweet?

Recently, a blogger I follow likened teaching kids to be tech savvy with teaching kids to swim.  The latter is something most parents place importance on, the former is an area we often let them figure out themselves.  Most parents learned how to swim in their own childhood and thus it is a logical skill set to pass down to their kids.  How are parents supposed to teach and guide their children in the ways of growing up with technology when it’s outside of their realm of experience? 

Parents – it’s time to learn how to keep your head above the turbulent waters of the ever-changing world of technology.

Technology has vastly altered the landscape of childhood and adolescence as a large proportion of the social interaction children and youth engage in is now occurring online.  This is a drastic change from the phone conversations and in person social interactions of previous generations.  Today’s children are facing the challenges of socializing and dating via social media and text message without support from their parents, who are typically very inexperienced at such things.  So how do parents gain experience and take on a supportive, even supervisory, role?  Learn to be tech savvy.

There are many different options on how to get your feet wet in the world of social networking and virtual relationships.  There are hundreds of blogs and websites dedicated to parenting and technology.  You can likely find a myriad of talks and seminars in your community addressing the challenges of parenting in our technology driven world.   Luckily, though, most parents have an expert right under their nose!  Your child is better equipped to teach you about technology and the role it’s playing in their life than anyone else out there. 

But how do you get your child to teach you about technology and how they interact online day-to-day?  Be curious and open.  Check the judgment at the door and approach your social networking education with sincerity and respect.  We adults may all laugh about the lack of authenticity in online social relationships but to our kids – it’s real.  Showing your child that you respect their online life will reduce the risk of being placed on the other side of a defensive brick wall.  Acknowledging and validating your child’s experiences will make them far more likely to share them with you. 

Alternatively, there are many different types of monitoring software you can install on your devices that will report back to you exactly what your child has been up to online.  While this approach is effective for information gathering it poses the risk of diminishing the trust in your relationship with your kids.  Also – typically kids are better at these things than their parents and will likely find a way around your virtual nanny cam, leaving you scrambling to get ahead of them again.  If monitoring software is the way you want to go, informing your children that their online endeavors are not private is a great way to preserve your relationship.

The technology explosion demands that parents adjust their parenting approach.  It’s important for parents to take an active role in their child’s relationship with technology and be well aware of the role it plays in their child’s life.  Parents - get on your water wings and jump in!