Raising teens today is a tough job. Not that it’s ever been easy, but in a digital world it seems a lot tougher.
Dr. Devorah Heitner, an expert on youth and their use of digital media and technology wrote a helpful book called Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World.
This book is about parents, kids, and mentorship. Dr. Heitner calls all parents to be mentors in their child’s life. In her research she has discovered, from thousands of children, that their biggest fear is being invisible or forgotten by their friends.
Kids want two things: to be noticed and needed. Most of their online activity is staying connected to their friends.
Kids may be “digital-natives” but Dr. Heitner says that it’s still important to ask questions about why kids are online. It’s best to start a conversation with your children, and save judgments and opinions for later.
She encourages parents to teach online etiquette, early and often, by modeling it. One of the ways to demonstrate online etiquette is to ask your kid’s permission before posting their images online.
As parents, mentoring means teaching kids how to advocate for themselves and become self-aware. Adults have more social wisdom, even though children may be tech savvy.
When monitoring your kids’ tech use, Dr. Heitner says to start with the assumption that children want to do the right thing they just don’t always know how.
Remember what it was like to be an adolescent? Not a lot has changed. Going through adolescence, even in a digital world, is still the same uncomfortable process and parents are figuring this out together.
It’s important to talk with other parents about technology openly and honestly without judgment. It helps to be transparent with your own digital activities.
Kids today are relying on their parents to prepare them for new milestones. Kids are going to set up their first email account; get their first smartphone; download their first social media app, and more.
Digital literacy is a skill that everyone can learn.
Dr. Heitner encourages parents to stay optimistic when approaching conversations about tech use in the home. Give kids a chance to use tech responsibly, stick to the facts and don’t give in to fear.
At the end of her book, Dr. Heitner advises parents, “As the most important adult in your child’s life, it is up to you as a parent to shape his relationship with technology and curate the media he interacts with as much as you can.”