Monday, 8 January 2018

Parenting in the Digital Age - We Have to be One Step Ahead

I was at a digital conference at the beginning of November and one of the streams was for anyone interested in young people and all things digital. It was a Christian conference so there were pastors, youth and children workers and parents like me. I went to a few different seminars and there were quite a few things that really spoke to me and I have pondering and praying on them since.

On the whole I think all the new technological advances have been a good thing and they add a whole new dimension to our world today but I'm not blind. I see how my 14 year old son gets sucked in to gaming on his computer and not wanting to come off and I'm super aware that one of my 10 year old's is already starting to judge herself by what she sees online. Those sorts of things are pretty scary.

You have to be a really intentional and involved parent to ensure that your kids are maintaining balance and not losing their grip on reality and it takes a lot of time and effort if I'm honest.

Look at this slide that was shared in one of the seminars -

We have to be one step ahead of our kids as parenting in the digital age can be scary. We must protect our kids online.


It really got me thinking. I can recall conversations where Miss M tells me that something definitely happened and I ask how she knows this and she'll tell me X said it in a vlog on YouTube or her friend Y saw it on their Instagram feed. Then I have to remind her that just because she read it online not all sources are credible and we can't believe everything we read as some people set out to deceive us. Adults have developed a bullshit filter (and yes I used those words, as sometimes I think they need to understand the severity of things) but she, as a 10 year old has not yet. Of course this isn't something I like sharing with her but as a savvy young lady with internet access she has to know this.

It is my job as a parent to equip and educate her to be able to function well in the world we live in. I don't feel it is my job to shield her from everything out there. Forewarned is fore-armed is what they always say and of course I'll share things in a manner appropriate for a 10 year old.

We had an incidence last week of just how on the ball you need to be when Miss M asked me if she could have Music.ly and I said I'd have to check it out first as I didn't know anything about it. A day later she asks again and I say not yet. The next day she skips past me happily telling me Dad downloaded Music.ly for her. I pop in and ask my husband if he had investigated the app and was happy with Music.ly for Miss M then? 'Not really' he says, 'it's just a karaoke sing-a -long app, a bit like Spotify'.

He was of course surprised to hear I'd said no to her and that I'd have to investigate. I then asked my hubby if he realised it was a social network where she was posting open videos of herself singing and posing and did he realise there was private messaging? Of course he didn't realise this at all. Miss M then skipped into the lounge and happily told us she had 15 follower and 6 likes. I pointed out this was one of he reasons she shouldn't yet have it and also the terms of use suggest the user be 13 years of age.

We have to be one step ahead of our kids as parenting in the digital age can be scary. We must protect our kids online.
Suoer scary that our kids are growing up thinking they have to take 500 photo to find one they like enough to share!

She of course got a right talking to for playing her parents off against each other and then we took a look at her followers together. Scary to see they were all men, some with zero followers themselves as they hadn't posted any videos but were just following other girls. She'd even received a comment on a video asking how old she was. This did freak her out somewhat.

By the time we had finished talking she was pretty anxious about what had been downloaded and started to realise that she must not regard her worth by how many followers or likes she has. She is worth her weight in gold just be being her. Nothing she does increases that.

We ended our chat that night by her sitting with me and watching this excellent video from the CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre). It is so good at helping youngsters (it is aimed at 8 - 10 year olds) realise that what they are doing online has an offline equivalent and that they would never dream of doing most of the offline activities. It is very, very clever and gets the point across.



Do take a look at their other videos too, as they have many aimed at different ages and they are all good.

I want to urge you not to bury your head in the sand. Yes, parenting in the digital age is quite demanding and a little scary but just take it one step at a time. Use your common sense and talk through with your child the reasons why you are saying yes or no to something. They are often much wiser than we give them credit for.

Good luck, Mich x

Why not pin this post for later?

We have to be one step ahead of our kids as parenting in the digital age can be scary. We must protect our kids online.

I've liked this post up with Joanna and Vicky for the Tactical Parenting weekly linky.

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