Mentoring Kids in the Digital Age
I remember when the internet and specifically Google came into the world (I feel so old saying that). There were many disagreements my wife and I got into that started something like this, “What other movies was this actor in, he looks so familiar,” or “When did this band release their first album?”
These simple questions would lead to days of asking friends their thoughts on the subject and then discussing our research over dinner that night. As Google became more prevalent one of us would eventually say, “I wonder if we can just google this?” Then, magically the answer would appear, and I could begrudgingly admit to my wife that I was wrong and she was right (that’s typically how it went, I bet many of you husbands can relate to that).
How far technology has come since those days. I never could have imagined or dreamed of the access to information that would eventually be in the palm of my hand. There has been so much we have had to learn as adults trying to adapt to this every changing new digital world.
Now, we have kids that are growing up as digital natives and they are in desperate need of our guidance and wisdom, but many of us feel inadequate to assist them in navigating a world that still feels so new and foreign in many ways.
In all my reading on the subject of technology and social media there seem to be three approaches parents tend to take.
I can try and control it.
I can be laissez-faire about it.
I can mentor my kids with it.
My personality finds a lot of comfort in trying to control the flow of technology. There is a part of me that just doesn’t want to face all that mentoring entails so I think, “How long can I keep it out of my kid’s hands?”
Now, realistically, I know this isn’t a sustainable approach, but I love the idea of keeping all of it as far away from my family as possible. I know many parents that lean more towards a more laissez-faire approach because they feel overwhelmed by the constant flood of new technological advances. They don’t think they can keep up with all of it.
Also, they don’t believe they can control it all, so they give it to their kids and hope for the best. I think we all instinctively know the healthiest option is to come alongside and mentor our children in how they engage technology.
This approach requires a lot out of us as parents. It requires us to be honest, vulnerable and transparent with ourselves and our kids. It requires us to create a family culture around the issues of technology and social media.
We have to ask ourselves questions like, “How do we as a family want to use technology and all that entails in a healthy way?” This is not an easy path but I think we all know it is inevitably a much more rewarding and necessary path.
Dr. Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise, says it this way in revenge to kids and smartphones,
“Getting a phone for your child is one of the biggest decisions you will make as a parent. If you think that’s an overstatement, think about this: the first smartphone is a turning point, a door that opens the entire world to your child.
"She will now have complete access to the internet and the ability to be in contact with almost anyone on the planet —from anywhere. All this can potentially happen away from your watchful eye. While that may sound scary, there are a lot of positives about this newfound power. But it’s exactly why I am so bullish on the importance of mentorship. Teaching your child to make good decisions is better protection than anything else you can do for your child.”