Rules of the Road for Parents


Not long ago, there was no such thing as Facebook, cyberbulling, smart phones, YouTube or texting. But we now live in a rapidly changing media and tech world where our kids are far more plugged in digitally than we are.

It can be incredibly tough to keep up with all this technology. But as all parents know, our kids learn from us — and not just from what we say — but more importantly, from what we do. Even if we’re a bit clueless about our kids’ online and cellphone lives, we can still help them learn how to use technology wisely.

Bottom line? Good, safe online and cellphone behavior begins at home. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Model good behavior. If we’re on our smart phones at dinner, why will our kids listen to us when we tell them to turn theirs off?
  2. Pay attention. We have to know where our kids are going online — and what they’re doing there.
  3. Impart our values. Cheating, lying, being cruel — they’re just not OK. Right and wrong extends to online and mobile life.
  4. Establish limits. Phone time, video time, destinations. There’s really a right time and place for everything.
  5. Encourage balance. Get kids involved in offline activities.
  6. Make kids accountable. If they have a privilege, make sure they earn it.
  7. Explain what’s at stake. Let kids know that what they do today can be abused by someone tomorrow.
  8. Find ways to say “yes.” That means we have to do some homework and know the sites they visit, the songs they download, etc. — and find ways to use technology that lets us say “yes” more often than we say “no.”
  9. It’s not rocket science. Learn to text, send a mobile photo, set up a Facebook page, upload a video. Or have your kids show you how. It’s impossible to guide what you don’t understand. Not only that, but think of all the anxiety you can avoid by knowing how things work.
  10. Lighten up, embrace their world, and enjoy the possibilities together. None of us want digital divides in our relationships with our kids. It’s up to us to join the fun and help them seize the potential.