When I finished reading Anne Collier’s two Net Family News posts, The Trust Factor in Parenting Online Kids and Parenting or (Digital) Public Humiliation, I leaned back to process all of the content in these two short articles. “Well done!” I thought.
Take some time to read these thoughtful and well-written pieces that address the challenges of parenting digital kids and offer solid guidance. They sum up just about everything a parent needs to know.
Collier examines the need for parents to build insightful and trusting relationships with their digital world children. She notes that we adults should think carefully about any decision to use secretive monitoring and instead consider recognizing the need for honesty and trust whenever we address the lives of children and adolescents who work and play in the connected world.
There’s no substitute for a parent being online, observing and adding his or her two cents when required. Yes it is time-consuming — but it’s best to communicate openly by transparently monitoring children’s digital activities and modeling the trust and honesty that we want them to develop in their own lives. Perhaps, Collier muses, we are even making digital kids safer, since they are less likely to be seeking ways to hide out or at least take cover online.
I suggest that parents seriously consider not monitoring in secret. Why? It can hurt or destroy the best “tool” there is for learning how to be not only safe but also successful online and offline: open, trustful communication between parent and child.
My experience bears out Collier’s point of view.
After many years teaching and learning in the educational technology field, I’ve observed that a fair number of the children who are closely monitored in secret eventually find out what their parents are doing. Often these kids spend time figuring out ways to avoid detection — and they don’t need to work very hard, because there are hundreds of ways, with new opportunities emerging all of the time. For the kids the process of digitally hiding out turns into a game.
Parents and children need to work together, framing digital expectations and deciding, in general, how family members will interact online. This ensures that when mistakes or problems occur — and they will happen from time-to-time — the parent-child connections will be strong enough to collaboratively solve the problems.