Bridging the Tech Divide

Remember the good old days when you could listen to an album or watch a television show before your kids in order to deem it appropriate or not? Well, as you already know, the Internet has changed all of that.

While it has become an important avenue for education and self-exploration, the Internet has opened up a pandora’s box of unintentional pitfalls. Social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are just a few of the most popular. But there is also Twitch, Snapchat, Kik, and a host of others that your kids may be using — despite your knowledge.

So in a world where your own children are more technologically advanced than you, how do you as a parent keep up? And when is the right time to release a little slack and let your kids take the reins on their technology use?

Here are some of our suggestions:

  1. Talk to your kids. Yes, yes, the older they get, the harder this becomes. But one thing about children — even teenagers — is that they love to talk about things they like. Use this to your advantage. For instance, if your child wants to download an app, have them show you how it works before installing it. Take notes while you’re at since you’re going to also have to look up the ENTIRE description online later. The point is, take the “team” approach.
  2. Talk to other parents. Strength in numbers here folks, especially since you may not have even scratched the surface about certain programs and apps. In fact, there may be other parents who know even less than you. This is a great way to exchange ideas without involving your children.
  3. Try them out. You probably already have a Facebook account since the world seems to run on it now. You’ve probably watched something on YouTube as well. Well, if that’s all you’re used to, you are way behind. That’s OK though — we are all behind! So if you can’t beat them, may as well join them (um, we don’t mean beating your kids). Getting to know the tools that you’re kids are using is an important way to understand them and also provides some new learning opportunities for you. Download an app. Create an account. Try things on for size. It makes things a lot easier when your child talks to you about certain technology.
  4. Don’t hide the world. Look, you’re kids are better at this than you. They understand the lingo, their classmates expose everything you’re trying to hide, and the “coolest” kids are the ones who have and use the newest big thing. And the more you put things under lock-and-key, the more they are going to try to pick the lock. Kids are inquisitive, resourceful, and easily-influenced. These are amazing attributes that help build healthy ground on which to grown upon. But, they also provide a bridge into worlds you don’t want them to enter. Saying “no” too often can be counterproductive and may entice your children to try the things you are protecting them from.
  5. Use technology to your advantage. There are number of parental control software and hardware options on the market (if you want to find them, just Google the previous nine words). These provide a great backup for parents, but do not replace open communication between you and your children. Checking up on them every couple weeks is not harmful to the relationship and it provides an additional check-and-balance necessary for a healthy family.

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