Response to: Growing up in the Digital Age

Image representing MySpace as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

My blogger/twitter friend Duong wrote an interesting article on Kids in the Digital Age. She ended it with a question:
How do you deal with your kids growing up in the digital age? What advice or suggestions would you offer parents?

My answer was pretty long for a blog comment, and it got me thinking. I decided to post my response here, just in case:

I was/am very strict with my teen son's use of social media. At one point he got his computer privileges taken away for over a month for starting a MySpace account without parental consent -- and I made him wait until he turned 14 (legal age according to MySpace TOS at the time) to get an account. The one rule was that I had to be one of his friends and if necessary, could require his password at anytime. I try to check his account on a regular basis to see what he and his friends are up to. He has to know every person in real life, and his account is private. If he can't explain to me who someone is, I make him delete that person. So far it's worked.  

I don't think people consider WoW (World of Warcraft) as a social network, but it certainly is becoming one for him. He's meeting people from all over the world the same way I do with twitter. And now he understands the attractiveness and addictive quality of it (not so much a good thing).  Because of the way it's set up I have much less control over the types of people he interacts with. It used to be the same friends as on Myspace and from church, but he's branched out.  

So far I am blessed that he likes to relate anecdotes about what is going on with his raids, the characters/people he interacts with, etc.  A part of me does worry about what he might be leaving out, but for now all I can do it trust him and trust that I have raised him to be somewhat discerning.

My daughter is 7 and still more interested in playing with her friends face-to-face, though she does want her own cell phone for games, the ability to call family and friends, and text now that she can read and spell (who would have thought *that!*). I introdiced her to one social network, Barbie Girls, but she didn't like it. We haven't tried any others, she's not even interested in Club Penguin.

The part I left out, considering the length, is my advice. 
  1. Instill your children with a sense of discernment. Make sure they know how to think critically and carefully and can exercise good judgement before allowing them on social media and networking sites.
  2. Build trust with your children. They need to know that you trust them enough to be on those sites. They also need to know that as parents, it's our job to keep them safe and that yes, we have the right to check their accounts and "invade their privacy" if it means keeping them safe. This is NOT advice to micro-manage your child's online activities, but know that as minors their activities online need to be transparent.
  3. Even if social networking is not your "thing", get educated. 

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  1. Excellent additional thoughts on your post. The way it's been accelerating the past few years, I know we are only heading into another leveel and I am friends with so many parents who no nothing about social networks, refuse to know, yet allow their children to be on them. I like the analogy that Diane shared on her comments in my post.

  2. Good pointers. Home use of the internet was young when I was 14 and about to hit high school. My parents trusted us and but were also very much apart of our online usage. We had AOL and were only allowed in to certain chat rooms with a parent's approval and with their involvement. So, with an egg timer (back when we paid for minutes and the phone line would be tied up during internet usage) we would sign on, play games, IM with friends and visit allowed All-Ages chat rooms. I appreciate their involvement because it has made me a more conscientious web user today. It's also given me a great foundation for my own parenting a child in the digital age. I will have have involvement and certain rights to passwords and such when my son is older. For now, he's 3 and enjoys watching babies laugh and fart on Youtube. I think i'm safe :o)

  3. I'm on the cusp of generation Y and the digital generation. I'm friends with so many people who the parents just let their children onto whatever networking site that they wish, and hand them over the iPod, new phone and everything they want.

    I also know a few parents who sensibly monitor their child's use of the computer, and what sites they can use. Should send the others here for some points.

    My mum wasn't strict on the computer thing, but until the age of about 15 she knew what I did on the computer, and even up until now I still feel it ok for her to ask what I've been doing and what sites I'm on. I've got her as a friend on my networking sites, and I find it normal. I see it as we can just check up on each other now.

    Good points, glad you wrote this.

  4. wow..I don't know where to start. Big issue. I guess, overall, I think it depends on the kid and needs to be monitored. even the most innocent kids or best intentions can be dangerous. We make all of the kids give us the usernames and passwords to ALL sites that they go to. we can log in and see what they've been up to.


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