Are you amazed when a young child knows how to use your smartphone better than you? Have you ever asked a teenager to fix a computer problem? Kids and students growing up today are referred to as digital natives. A digital native is defined as a person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and therefore familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age. For this next generation they have never needed directions to get somewhere, just an address, and if you asked them to grab a tablet they would never go to the medicine cabinet. Technology is being integrated into every facet of their lives. So how do parents leverage technology to build relationships with their kids? With the help of the reThink Group, I want to share with you how to leverage technology through the different phases of childhood.
In the preschool phase, we embrace their physical needs. When it comes to technology we need to enjoy the advantages of technology so they will experience boundaries and have a positive experience. Begin setting screen time limits and establish screen-free times and screen-free zones in your house. Say things like, “Playing on mommy and daddy’s phone can be fun, but you always need to ask us first.” As a parent, remember to be a positive model by being present with your kids. Capture the moments, but don’t be so distracted by sharing them online that you miss them in the moment.
In the elementary phase, we engage their interests. We need to help elementary kids explore the possibilities of technology so they will understand core values and build online skills. As kids are approaching sixteen they are looking forward to their license but have you set the expectations for your elementary child on how and when they can receive their “technology license”? Say things like, “Google can be amazing, but it’s very important that you don’t ever Google without me” and “We’re here to help you learn how to use technology in a safe and fun way. That’s why we have to know your passwords and what you’re doing with your phone. As you get older, you’ll gain more freedom. But for now, we’re in this together.” As a parent, use technology to play and connect with your kids, they will love this!
In the preteen phase, we affirm their personal journey. As kids are growing up and becoming teenagers we need to utilize technology to collaborate a plan so they will respect limits and strengthen social abilities. Preteens desire freedom online, but they are not ready for it yet. Create clear limits and expectations when the time comes for giving your student a cell phone. As students become teenagers and you help them start social media accounts, do this together and always know the passwords. Say things like, ”Will you show me how to set up my own Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc? I want us to be able to follow each other. But I promise not to comment on your pictures.” “Have you run into any jerks online lately? Read or seen anything that made you feel bad or uncomfortable?” As a parent, don’t make privacy something you’re taking away from them, but rather something you’re working toward as a team.
In the teen phase, we mobilize their potential. As students are moving through their high school years we need to expand their potential so they will establish personal boundaries and leverage online opportunities. If your student has earned your trust then consider giving them more freedom with technology, but if not then help them see how they can work towards this privilege. Say things like, “If someone looked at everything you post online and tweet, what would they learn about who you are?” “I know it’s tempting to use your phone while driving. I’m tempted to do it too. Can you help keep me in check about not using my phone while driving? And, of course, I’ll do the same for you.” As a parent, encourage your student to plug into online hobbies that will help them use the gifts that God has uniquely designed them with.
As your child is moving through the phases remember that the goal of technological responsibility is to leverage the potential of online experiences to enhance offline community and success.