The first quarter of 2019 has begun with a variety of digital parenting concerns that would seem to be the perfect recipe for confusion and despair for parents and caregivers. Parents have had to contend with problems ranging from viral challenges, (hoaxes and cheese throwing) to gaming preoccupation (Fortnite and the equally enticing Apex Legends). Throw in a dash of privacy concerns and data protection for our children, a pinch of social media influencers making millions before they can drive and swirl in a flavor of inappropriate commentaries on videos to round it all out.
What is a digital parent to do? Don’t panic. Parent.
Given that we are bound to see more exciting issues in the next 9 months – dare I mention artificial intelligence, virtual reality (and porn), age verification platforms, robotics and Internet of Things/Toys – parents need to realize that they have what it takes to raise a child in the digital age.
Here is a round-up of my 5 C’s of digital parenting skills that will help you get through the next 9 months and further.
Communication – Years ago, I went to a Parent Zone conference in London and they mentioned a technique which has stayed with me all these years - the WWW approach to communicating with your child. Ask: Who is your child talking to online (classmates, friends in town/abroad, strangers)? What is your child doing online? Where are they going online (type of websites, platforms, etc.)? And a 4th that I added later - when is your child going online (with the sitter, grandparents, late at night, etc.)?
Critical Thinking – I cannot stress this digital parenting skill enough. Put those critical thinking caps on and decide whether your family needs that new device, game, app, robot or what have you. Once you say yes, think of ways to use the technology or device safely and responsibly. Then think of ways to maximize your privacy and data protection settings. Rinse, repeat.
Confidence – Digital parents - have confidence that you really can do this! Even if you start to panic thinking about all the fan culture of Fortnite (those darn dances) or the latest YouTuber, think that perhaps our parents and grandparents felt the same way when faced with Madonna in the 80’s or The Beatles in the 60’s.
Continued Conversation – Once you have begun to have those conversations with your children and young people, do keep them up – talk early and often. Use that downtime in the car, while cleaning up, prepping for dinner or just talking a walk – to continue the conversations about their online world.
Community – When parents have concerns, they may sometimes turn to family members or other parents to resolve the issue. Remember the debate of whether a baby should sleep on their stomach? Back? The prevailing medical advice evolved over time, yet parents still discussed what was happening in their homes. Same for nursing children and wondering if the baby was latching on correctly. A community of parents and caregivers with years of experience and common sense can be a valuable source.
In today’s world, community can be found online as well, and I offer several Facebook groups dedicated to technology and digital parenting. Join one or all and check out the conversations to find a community that resonates with you.
If you will allow me to add a last C - using a bit of my San Diego beach vernacular – chill. Parenting in the digital age is going to bring challenges, anxiety and thrills and with all the resources at hand, digital parents have what it takes to raise resilient, digital citizens. The digital future is bright indeed.