Getting real with our kids as technology forces us into warp speed
In today’s world, our children are exposed to content at warp speed, and we cannot always be there to monitor what they see. The subliminal messages, ads, social media expectations, and even the content of adolescent shows in general has changed dramatically since we were kids. I mean, what happened to Full House? Now, our kids are at school, and come home and start asking questions that they honestly have zero business even thinking of, and even more alarmingly – have image issues at seriously young ages.
It is no secret that the introduction of the internet made access to information incredibly easy. Although we might monitor what our children are seeing at home, it does not mean we can see what other children are showing our kids or what our kids are looking at while we are away. The age-old expression “while the cats away the mice will play” is truly relevant today.
The online aspect of how children interact with each other whether it is through text or online play has significantly decreased kids’ abilities to build self-esteem and honesty.
In a study conducted by the Child Mind Institute®, Dr. Steiner-Adair notes that “There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills. In a way, texting and online communicating – it’s not like it creates a nonverbal learning disability, but it puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.”
I will be the first to tell you, I LOVE social media. It is such a great place to connect with people and share inspiring stories and discover so many new creative outlets. However, there is a dark side looming that has been on the rise concerning our children, with body image being one of the main concerns.
According to a report by Common Sense Media, the average teen spends about nine hours per day using media for their entertainment, while those same teens on average only spend less than ten minutes a day talking to their parents. In that time, think about what they are absorbing. All types of information on body imaging, acceptable lifestyle, how to think, and the list goes on. Therefore, psychologists have been finding that children who spend more than three hours a day on social media are twice as likely to suffer from depression, and this is more prevalent in teenagers.
This brings me to “The Talk”. Now, back in my day the talk was reserved exclusively for when a young man or woman was blossoming, and we were starting to become extremely interested in kissing and so on. It was a very comical time for some, mortifying for others, and for the parents…. embarrassing as hell.
I say it was comical because most of us had already seen the outrageous 70’s video of a woman giving birth in 6th or 7th grade physical health class and THAT was a sight. The kids today are missing out – not to mention, that would be the best form of birth control in my humble opinion. If you didn’t experience that little gem-you missed out.
At any rate, here we are in an age where delicacy has gone out the window, there are no boundaries so to speak, and the internet is creeping up on our babies before we can. So, how can we approach our kids without first making them think we are complete weirdos?
Lead by example
Talk to your kids. Tell them your own stories. We are all, or at least most of us, have an online presence of some sort. I know I for one have been cyber bullied before and I have talked to my own daughter about it. I applied this to her friends at school as well. How to deal with situations powerfully and taught her, that quite often, people who are being rude or negative-that reflects some sort of inner conflict of their own. Be kind, smile, and move on. Kindness is not weakness, it is class.
Have an open dialog
Trust is the number one key in a parent and child relationship. As our children grow, they inevitably require more privacy and that is okay, but feeling secure enough to speak with you is irreplaceable. From the get-go, ask about what apps they are using. Set the standard. Talk freely with them and ask them to show you and teach you about their favorite apps, games, or websites. If you do think something is not appropriate for their age, be ready to explain why. Having a conversation instead of just “because I said so” builds an open dialog and trust for open communication.
Talk about personal information
Teach your child about what it is to keep personal information close to heart. You can help him or her develop awareness. Some things to share:
- What you put online lives on forever – there is no such thing as delete
- Make sure your privacy settings are set appropriately
- DO NOT HESITATE TO BLOCK PEOPLE THAT MAKE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE
- Report suspicious activity
- Never, EVER, give out your number or address
- Strangers online are still strangers
- Remember, you are your own person and you are as unique as a falling snowflake
- Role models are there to set goals, not to be idolized
I think it is important to remember that the internet is not all bad. Our youngsters have incredible advantages because of social media platforms and the internet, but it all needs to be taken in doses. We are at a pivotal moment in time when we have been forced to slow down from the fast-paced lifestyle we have been living and really pay attention to our surroundings. Our children are our literal future, and just because technology is faster than we are at present, does not mean we need to let it dictate to us how our children will be molded to fit.