At one time or another, most of us experience the protective parent surge, a not-my-child reaction, when someone lets us know that a son or daughter could be involved in some sort of digital misbehavior. Often a child’s digital blunder is public for many people, but not public enough for a parent to casually discover the problem, so the first alert may indeed come from another parent.
Especially if this information comes from someone who is not well-known, the protective parent energy surge can complicate an issue even further. I know because I’ve felt this powerful surge.
Ages ago I heard a presentation that described how to react when one parent tells another parent that a child may be involved in a problem. I don’t remember when or where, but here are the seven rules I subsequently made for myself.
- Stay calm, don’t take it personally, take a deep breath, and thank the other person for the tip. Limit the conversation.
- Make a few strategic inquiries to trusted parents of your child’s friends, just in case you can learn a bit more.
- Find a quiet time — away from anyone else — to talk to chat with your child. Start the conversation with, “I heard…” statements and, “Can you help me understand more?” questions. Don’t give out names of the other parent or child — it serves no purpose.
- Listen to your child. Try not to interrupt.
- Avoid comments that diminish your knowledge of technology in your child’s eyes. You are the wise and experienced parent no matter what the state of your digital skills.
- Unless the problem is egregious, don’t automatically take away all digital access. Your child is a digital kid, so for consequences, find some middle ground.
- Expect tension but stay calm, even if your child is upset.
To learn more about limits, guidelines, and conversations for your digital children, go to media issues page at the American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children.org site.