Parenting in the Digital Age

Posted by Claire Batherson on 4/19/2018

Children today are exposed to a different technological world than previous generations. When I was a child, homes didn’t have computers, tablets, or even cell phones for that matter. When kids had spare time, they either went outside to play or played board games inside with family or friends. If and when you went to a restaurant, you colored on the placemat or just sat quietly waiting for your meal. Car rides didn’t include videos or electronic games. The games I played on family trips in the car were Slug Bug and Count the Cows and I enjoyed it! We talked, laughed, teased, and had a great time. Truth is, I often miss those days.

Flash forward and many times in restaurants today, kids from age one on up are playing on tablets or smartphones. Kids in cars are either watching videos or playing video games. They don’t seem to be outside playing as much as they used to. They are inside playing video games with other kids (some that they may not even know). Yes, as a parent and now a grandparent, I understand that tablets, smartphones, computers, and video games keep kids entertained. It is easier to go out to eat with your child and sit them down with a tablet or game to keep them quiet. The same holds true for a car trip. And in this crazy world we live in, maybe it is safer for your child to stay inside where you can be sure they are safe. The problem that arises from this constant use of technology is that the art of communication within the family seems to be getting lost. Kids find it hard to know what it means to be patient and to wait for something. Even entertaining themselves when their electronic device fails or is taken away is often difficult for them.

With that being said, the digital age and everything that comes with it is here to stay. Today many young people have multiple social media accounts to which they are constantly posting comments and sharing pictures and with their friends. What happens when their accounts get hacked? What if they fall for a phishing scam where they arecontacted by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure them into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords? These things are happening on a regular basis and our young people may not recognize when it is happening to them. All of the sudden their personal information is out there for everyone to see and their identity may be stolen.So now how do you keep your child safe in the digital world? It’s not easy.

Here at St. Luke School, our students participate in digital citizenship training through the Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship program required by the Archdiocese. Through this program, they get the basics of how to stay safe when they are online, how to protect their privacy and know what information is ok to give out and what is not, and how to recognize and refrain from cyberbullying and how to stand up for those who are bullied. The students are monitored while using the internet here at school but when they leave it becomes the responsibility of the parent to continue to monitor and guide their children to be responsible digital citizens. As a parent, this is a huge task. There are ways for parents to help their children navigate the digital world safely. You can develop a contract between you and your child on the responsibilities they have when using digital media. Monitor their media usage. Discuss what is private information that they should not share. Set aside family time where everyone is “offline”. Keep cell phones and computers out of bedrooms. Know what they are doing and who they are communicating with.

I have several links on my website to guide you through this digital age. Please take the time to look at them in the ‘Links & Resources’ section of my teacher pages. Sometimes the digital world can be more dangerous than the real one and parents need to know how to keep their children safe. As the boy scout motto states: ALWAYS BE PREPARED.