Tech itself is not the problem.
Train digital life skills.
There’s a movement getting some traction online among parents of older elementary school children to mutually agree to not allow mobile phone use in their households until 8th grade. Do we assume all 13-year olds are suddenly mature kids, or that tweens and middle schoolers mature at the same pace? Even some 15- and 16-year olds should not be on social media.
It’s probably not realistic to think isolating your kids will prevent adverse results. You can delay it in your home, but it may be at the expense of development and proper learning experience. It seems illogical to draw lines in the sand based on age instead of on development, maturity and family necessity. What is good about this movement, though, is that more parents are paying attention to this issue and making strides to educate themselves on digital skills.
By limiting technology aren’t we sending the message that it is harmful? It also seems that banning together and creating comparison models some of the same elements of social media we are trying avoid. Everyone may not get behind the concept of delaying exposure, but many would probably agree on delaying or preventing the use of social media and limiting screen time. However, delaying device use and Internet access may not have the same impact.
Digital Age parenting is no easy feat. Rather than talking about when, it seems that we should focus more on how and what digital tech is used for. Just as we talk to tweens about life’s dangerous traps, limiting them is just not enough.
We lean toward helping kids navigate gadgets and technology instead of preventing their opportunity to learn. The focus should be more on mentoring and training, than limiting. It’s stronger message to work with what interests them, rather than fight against it.
To us, it’s less about the timing, but the discussions of technology focus that matter. Each family has a different level of digital literacy and also varying home dynamics, family values, and parenting styles. Not everyone can, or should, train their kids on these digital learnings. Too many parents aren’t tech-savvy, and lack healthy smartphone habits. Many don’t know the best uses of smartphones as purposeful tool or sensible entertainment. Even the coolest of us parents probably needs a translator for the culture of texting, social networks, and tween behaviors. There is a cultural and generational divide, and parents need help and support.
Phones and Tech alone are not the problem.
Social media is not bad or good.
Train digital life skills.
If an effort is made to train kids on proper uses of technology as they age, parents will know when their kids are ready. Further, kids will be more skilled and safer when they are using tech and smartphones on their own. Building character along the way would create a more solid foundation for them to start using their devices in smarter ways. If kids are taught how best to use communication tools and how to handle virtual relationships, then they will not be fearful and instead be empowered to make smarter decisions on their own later on.
With the proper tools, resources and time from parents, caregivers and mentors, kids can be trained on the life skills of proper use of technology, acceptable communication, privacy, digital etiquette, and avoidance of the dangerous elements like cyberbullying and privacy issues to avoid becoming online victims. There is the opportunity for some deeper conversations about your child’s choices and decisions, along with boundaries appropriate to their social and emotional maturity.
Some parents make the phone family-owned and not the child’s, monitoring access. Others create safeguards with apps and programs that limit access. Others look for written agreements such as this tech use template online, or this one from iMom specifically for sample cell phone contract.
Teachable moments from parents who can engage, and from mentors in real life who can guide the effort can make differences. Real life experiences can provide the guidance, education and training necessary to navigate the online world safely. Parents can show them how to go online for helpful things like recipes for cooking, information for travel planning, and shopping online to know costs and details before making big purchases. Dr. Kathy Koch has some great tips on how to incorporate smart use of tech into daily life and training. Since it’s not just one discussion but a journey together, it’s never too late to start.
We would love to see all parents and caretakers formally teach children emotional, social, financial, business, and digital literacy life skills as intently as we do academics and at the right time for each family situation. We encourage adults to be proactive, and do what is right for your own family. We advocate digital life skills training over restrictions.
If you want your kids trained on digital life skills, safe online access, and filtering social media, we have resources to help support your family efforts.
- QUIZ: Score your DQ World digital intelligence for 8-12 year olds – https://www.dqworld.net/. Use our code: 493RNB for quick access, it’s free.
- ARTICLE AND BOOK: http://www.celebratekids.com/category/tech-savvygeneration/ and book: Screens and Teens by Dr. Kathy Koch – http://amzn.to/2yeX6O9
- BOOK: Social Media Wellness by Ana Homayoun – http://amzn.to/2fbx8q5
- Connect Safely – ConnectSafely.org
- Family Online Safety Institute – fosi.org
- National Association for Media Literacy Education – namle.net
- Child Net – http://www.childnet.com
- Funmoods – http://home.funmoods.com/
Specializing life planning and entrepreneurship training for middle schoolers, Kidsperiences is an online adventure for kids teaching kids life skills. Kids & teens gain leadership skills with blogs, videos and marketing opportunities. Your kids can explore their favorite things to do, teach other kids, and learn how to turn it into many benefits. With 20 years of ecommerce and digital marketing experience, we provide your family with the tools and encouragement to set up for online success. Author of Entrepreneurship Guide for the Ultimate Kid, speaker, coach, trainer. Grab your free copy of Over 100 Life Skills for Kids & Teens at http://bit.ly/2x2Y824.