Raising Your Digital Natives Responsibly

If you’re a parent like me, you’re constantly reminded that all of the technology we use to make life so much better can also give us some real challenges. Here are a few examples you may relate to: Has your child relentlessly campaigned to get a mobile phone but you think he’s too young? Have you said “no” to getting the latest app your child wants and then had to listen to them nag you to change your mind? Have you hit the roof when you walk into the family room on a beautiful weekend morning to see your child with a game controller in their hands, eyes glazed over?

(Simple strategies and easy-to-use tips on how to raise your “digital natives")

Well, it’s Internet Safety Month, so what better time to talk about how to use technology to teach our children responsibility?  On June 18, I hosted a Verizon-sponsored webinar, “Raising Your Digital Natives Responsibly,” which addressed common challenges parents and caregivers face when raising “digital natives “ – children who’ve grown up with constant access to the Internet and texting –– and suggested healthy, responsible-use strategies.  During the half hour session, I covered some real-life scenarios and suggested some simple guidelines that can help you get a handle of how to use technology as a way to teach your children responsibility.

Here are a few pointers:

  • You don’t have to keep up with every new device, app or game your children use to teach them how to use technology responsibly.  What’s most important is to clearly establish your expectations that they will treat themselves and others with dignity whenever they use any technology to communicate with others. Our family has a technology contract that each of my sons signs. 
  • If you do want to check up on the latest “thing,” there are a number of handy online resources.  I either look up the term on wikipedia, the product’s website, or reddit.com.  If it’s a game or slang I’m hearing other kids talk about, then I look it up on Urban Dictionary.
  • There’s no excuse for bad manners, such as tuning out with earbuds in and music blasting while everyone is eating dinner.   This isn’t acceptable; it’s time to set down some concrete guidelines about how to behave during family time.  Your kids probably won’t like the ground rules you establish, but you do have leverage.  For example, if your child doesn’t follow the rules and you’re paying for their phone plan, you need to make it clear that the condition of having the privilege of having their phone is they follow your guidelines.