Posts

, ,

Connect with your Kids… Digitally

Make Technology a Force for Good in your Family

Technology as a “force for good” in your family may sound a little (a lot) counter-intuitive at first.  We hear about the downside of technology on a fairly consistent basis these days.  And, whilke it is true that everything with tech is not always “hunky dory”, technology has many amazing things to offer when used responsibly.  With a little research (see Social Media – Be There for Your Child), an open mind, and some perseverance, you and your children can enjoy the upside of healthy technology while avoiding the pitfalls.

The most critical component of your kids’ ability to safely and successfully navigate today’s technology landscape has nothing to do with technology.  In most situations, their success is highly contingent on their relationships with their parents… as in YOU!  Of course, the love and trust between parent and child is the cornerstone of much of a child’s development.  How and when our kids use technology is no different.

Kids need to know that Mom and Dad have expectations with regard to apps, games, social media, messaging, and even television.. do kids watch TV these days.  They need to understand that their use of technology is a privilege and not a right.  Most children do not have the financial means to purchase and maintain their computers, tablets, and phones, not to mention the requisite networking and data plans that make them useful.  As such, we parents need to be direct in explaining that we have every right to impose rules and consequences when our children misuse technology.

More Important than Control… Connection

All the “control efforts’ in the world will not keep a child from “exploring” or making the occasional “error in judgement”.  The stronger our relationships with them and the closer our connections, the less traumatic these missteps will be.  Admittedly, connecting with our kids on their own “digital turf” (i.e. SnapChat, Instagram, etc.) is going to be difficult, if not impossible.  It’s not that they don’t want to connect with us online.  It’s just that they don’t want us imposing on the connections they are building with their peers.  What Families need are solutions (apps) that are custom built for Parents and Kids.

And this raises an interesting question, “what do parents and kids both find important enough to actually get them to use a common app”?  Given all of the obligations and activities we find ourselves trying to manage these days, it turns out that sharing basic information about schedules, assignments, documentation and the like is critically important to every member of the family.  FamPlan brings all of this information together in one place, and brings it to life with a “social feed” that allows family members to discuss this information in context.

And the best part, the kids can now contribute and learn to be responsible for their own schedules and activities.  If you have ever tried to teach the kids to use a calendar, you already know that paper calendars just don’t meet these “Digital Natives'” needs.  They want their information with them and available at all times.  If we are honest with ourselves, we parents do also.  We have these capabilities through our employers, and perhaps even with our spouse.  But, a shared Family solution, designed to engage the kids has been, until now, out of reach.

In summary, be purposeful in your efforts to connect with your children digitally.  The shared experience (aka “Connection”) will provide the opportunity to guide their learning and ensure they have positive experiences with their technology.

Happy Parenting!

This is Part 3 of a 5 Part Series on Kids and Social Media

, ,

Social Media – Be There for Your Child

Is Social Media “Really” Bad for Our Kids?

Many parents today, myself included, are concerned about the effects social media (and computer games, etc.) is having on our children.  If we are to assume that what we see on TV News (not to mention many of our own social feeds) is an accurate reflection of the experiences of most of our children, then the situation indeed may be dire.  But, is this actually the case?

Let’s be clear.  Social Media has definitely changed the way many of us interact with one another, adults and children alike.  Some of these changes are definitely for the better.  It’s great to be able to stay up to speed on the happenings of those you care about, but might otherwise never hear from.  The best example of this type of Social Media platform is, of course, Facebook.

Unfortunately, the good is offset by a number of potentially significant problems.  One such dilemma is our inability to exclude the negative information that we would not otherwise seek out (in your kid’s world, think “cyber-bullying”).  It can be very difficult to disengage from negative conversations when you carry them around in your pocket at all times.  A second serious challenge is that we tend to find ourselves in “echo chambers”, where much of the content we are presented simply reinforces currently held beliefs.  As you might imagine, a child with low self-esteem, who is constantly presented with information that devalues him, may find himself in a downward spiral.

Of course, we all face these problems to some degree.  But, the consequences can be far more pronounced when experienced by our children.  Sadly, they do not possess the experience or the wisdom to always know what is healthy and what should be ignored.  And more consequentially, they often have very limited frames of reference when attempting to understand the situations they find themselves in and what they feel about them.

Which is Why We Must “Be There With Them”

As parents, it is both our privilege and our responsibility to instruct our children with regard to what is “right and wrong”.  When we were children, much of this education was focused on how we should interact with a limited number of friends, family, and situations, most of which were well known to our parents.  Today, our children may literally be interacting with hundreds of other people in far more situations than we might even imagine.  So, how do we ensure their health and safety?

First and foremost, we have to become educated ourselves.  Don’t worry, you do not need to be an active user on every possible app out there.  Start by researching the “Biggies” (here’s a fairly comprehensive list).  SnapChat, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook command a high percentage of the average young person’s social media exposure.  If you want to create an account on each of these platforms and be linked to your child’s accounts, go ahead.  But, it is probably not necessary “to spy” on them.  The chances that they would do or say something far enough outside your expectations that you would feel compelled to intervene is slim.  It is probably enough that they know you “are around”.  And, they might even take comfort in the knowledge they are not alone.

This approach makes the assumption that your child understands your expectations.  And, this brings us back to parenting.  Not the “Control” parenting many of us would prefer.  This parenting effort is going to require continuous interaction.  To succeed when it comes to social media, we must be present for our children, understand the challenges they may face, and be prepared to listen, empathize and mentor.  Which is why it is absolutely critical that we know what we are talking about.

And, if you think you and your child would benefit from a private environment where you can connect and share information and technology strategies, you can certainly give FamPlan a try.

Just remember, the only thing parents can do that is definitely a bad idea when it comes to social media is to allow their kids to go it alone.

Happy Parenting!

This is Part 2 of a 5 Part Series on Kids and Social Media