A Digital Native.
You might be asking yourself what the heck does that mean??
Well, a few weeks ago I didn’t know either. Then I attended a session at our church presented by our youth minister on Parenting In the Digital Age and my mind was BLOWN.
A Digital Native is a essentially a person who has always known a world with technology. Smart Phones, Tablets, Internet, Email…..babies can crack an iPhone password with the best of them these days and it’s because to them, it’s the norm. They have never known another way.
I could get all preachy and give you the “back in my day” speech, but really there is no need to show my age. Let’s just say when I was in Jr. High….there was no internet. Email and AOL started in High School, but I didn’t really get online until College. And “online” has even come a long way since then.
What was the norm when I was in Jr. High and even College is no longer so. We as parents are charting new territory that no parents ever have before.
And let me just say, it’s a scary place to be.
As a mama to a now Middle Schooler I am quickly becoming more and more aware of the dangers the online world can bring. Not that I was ever naive and didn’t realize there was porn on the internet before, it’s just now I am seeing things in a brand new way. And as someone whose job is essentially “being on the internet” it is hard to find the balance and the boundaries. I don’t really want to parent by the example do as I say, not as I do.
I am no expert….hence our blog title folks….BUT I am a mama, who is trying to do the best she can, and navigate this new world in the ways I feel are best for my children.
Here are my 5 Tips For Raising A Digital Native.
Set Clear Expectations – Weather this is a cell phone contract or monitoring their time online, set clear expectations and rules that you want your children to follow.
Be A Real Friend, Not Just a Follower – I don’t recall what the exact statistic was that Kyle shared during his presentation, but an overwhelming number of teenagers have friends that they have never met in real life. This one is hard for me, because some of my best friends in the world started out as online friends. It is also a challenge in that nowadays we spend more time relating to people online (liking their latest Instagram picture, Tweeting them, Snapping them, texting them) that we sometimes seem to forget that there are people around us all the time that we could be conversing with, laughing with and getting to know on a much deeper level, if only we would put the phones, tablets, computers away.
Unplug – With your expectations make sure you include times for when everyone in the family (yes, that means mom and dad too) unplug. Meal Times, when you have guests, and bed times are all a great time to implement the unplugging rule. We no longer do cell phones in the bedrooms. Our oldest is 12, and just got her first cell phone and it stays downstairs in the evenings to charge. My husband and I also have unplugged at night and it is amazing what taking that time, even if just an extra 5-10 minutes a night can do for your marriage.
Be The Parent – Sometimes it’s hard work being the rule enforcer, but as parents we have to stay strong. If you give an inch, they can take a mile and we need to make sure we are staying on top of our children’s online usage. Parental Controls are all well and good but kids today are smart and tech savvy and you can’t fully rely on some kind of app or control to monitor your kids online behavior. In our daughters cell phone contract it states that at any time we can look through her calls and texts (she doesn’t have a smart phone or a whole list of apps would be added to that list). We want her to know that we will be watching and monitoring and know what she is doing. We know that realistically she will probably mess up, and when she does we will be there to guide her and help her find her way back. Along with each expectation, she also knows each consequence that is involved.
Stay Informed – It is alarming the kind of apps that are out there that can be used for evil. Staying up to date on the technology that is out there is key in raising a digital native. You need to know about it and you need to know how to use it if need be. It will always be changing and staying on top of things will help tremendously. Knowing the popular apps, what apps your kids are on, what apps your kids friends are on is all really important. Who do your kids talk to online? Where do they spend all their time? These are all things that parents should know. Monitor often and stay informed.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience is going to look a little bit different, but I think we can all agree as parents that we are navigating this new road the best we know how. Just staying involved is the first step. Ignorance is not bliss.
It’s a new and exciting time and technology really can be an amazing tool if used properly. I have always liked the saying that ” The sign of great parenting isn’t the child’s behavior, the sign of great parenting is the parents behavior”. We have to remember we have impressionable eyes watching us at all times and we need to lead by example and be mindful that our talk needs to match our walk.
Take the time to ask how you can apply some of these tips to your own online usage. What can we as parents do better? That’s a conversation we should always be having.