Parents and educators can learn a lot about children’s digital lives — and the importance of helping young people develop strong digital citizenship skills — by listening to a series of broadcasts from National Public Radio (NPR) on raising digital natives (also available in print). The radio reports focus on children’s experiences in daily connected life and present wide-ranging information about the responsibilities of parenting 21st Century digital kids. All of the stories are posted at All Tech Considered blog, but I’ve included links for each story below.
The entire set of news stories, shared by a number of different NPR reporters, contains information that can help parents and educators think more carefully about how to strengthen their roles in children’s lives.
Many times each year parents and teachers ask me for examples of agreements and contracts that can help families focus on digital life expectations and limits-setting. Some individuals seek a pre-written document to use with their children, while others hope to design and write a document expressly for their families.
These agreements, contracts, or pledges, cover the gamut of 21st Century digital world behavior, from cell phones, to online access, to texting, web 2.0, social media, cyber-bullying, and digital citizenship.
The conversation and preparation that contribute to developing a family agreement or contract are often more important than the final document. In these family discussions parents will need to arm themselves with information about digital natives, address values, and encourage common sense. Parents will also need to help their children think about what to do in unexpected situations, and encourage them speculate on how to cope with friends who encourage them to misbehave. The more personal and relevant the agreement, the better.
Then, too, adults should understand that the preparation and writing process is not a one-way street. A child may make a pointed observation or come up with a thoughtful idea about the digital issues contained in the agreement. Perhaps he or she feels strongly about certain types of access, time limits, or other parental expectation. Maybe there are compelling reasons to grant access to one site or another, even though the parent has reservations.
This set of summer digital activities, 5 Things You Can Do Online With Your Child This Summer, arrived in my e-mail a week or so ago. The list includes simple, but open-ended activities, each one enjoyable by itself, but with the potential to lead parents and children in many additional and enjoyable digital directions during the summer vacation. The ideas come from NetSmartz.
NetSmartz also features a wide range of digital safety educational resources for educators and law enforcement professionals.
No blog, though, at least not one that I can find. Puzzling since they provide some excellent information on blogging. Why not an example of what good blogging looks like — maybe one for parents and one for adolescents?
If you have ever written a comment at the end of an article or blog posting, you have surely read more than a few inappropriate and sometimes distasteful remarks. Sometimes people leave these comments anonymously. Posted by folks who do not understand why websites invite visitors to share thoughts and ideas, many unfiltered remarks are permanently attached to websites — indiscretions waiting for the whole world to discover.
Helping your child avoid public website blunders is one reason to discuss commenting etiquette. Often children don’t know or forget that their comments leave a digital footprint trail that will last much longer than their per-adolescent and even teenage years. Often confusion arises because many children first encounter commenting opportunities in places where adult supervision is scarce. As a result an impulsive idea can beat out good common sense even when a child knows better. Bottom line — response and commenting areas are not places to leave nasty, rude, and hateful conversation.
No words console a family when a child dies, especially a loss caused by cruel and bigoted peers who don’t comprehend digital world distinctions between right and terribly wrong. A much-loved boy, a gifted musician, a young man who made others smile and relax with beautiful music — and whose sexual identity was no one’s business but his own, even in the confusing milieu of a freshman college dorm — is dead.
For the rest of us — parents, teachers, religious leaders, and other adults — much can be said. Tyler Clementi’s suicide dramatically illustrates, yet again, the youth disconnect between privacy as we knew it in the past and the increasingly few layers that protect us today. With no clear definition of privacy, children, adolescents, and even young adults perceive few behavior boundaries –those lines in the sand that delineate the ethical from the unethical, the fun from the vicious. How many more children do we have to lose?
Comprehensive web-based resources on digital safety, cyber-bullying, media literacy, and general technology information can help parents learn more about the web and how their children use it. Most of these sites update their content daily with timely tips, strategies for parents and kids, blog postings, and other helpful links. Yet, with so many sites to choose from, parents may have difficulty keeping track of any single location, let alone navigating among the sites on a regular basis.
Now Google, as so often happens, has come up with a terrific solution — the Family Safety Center. The center is well laid out with clear explanations about safety tools and connections to many of the best digital and media safety sites — all partnering with Google.
Just when we think we have a handle on a social networking, along comes another virtual gimmick to figure out. In this case Places isa Facebook mobile phone application designed to follow you around using the phone’s GPS, let people know where you are, and significantly reduce your privacy. Keeping a tight lid on anything tweens and younger adolescents do with Places will be a priority for parents this fall. A couple of suggestions…
Make Facebook Places a discussion topic and figure out a good time to talk with your family. Privacy is a concern, so don’t delay. With the start of the school year only a few weeks off, children with mobile smart phones will most likely try to make Places a part of their Facebook activities.
Think about the general Facebook and specific Places guidelines that you want to set for students in your family. Do this now, before Places becomes ingrained in the adolescent culture.