Today’s kids will never understand what it means to pay a late fee for a Blockbuster rental, nevermind the floppy disk icon on their apps and devices. Similarly, today’s parents will likely never understand how to play Fortnite, or the meaning of “IMO” and “TBH”. And that’s okay. It’s normal for these gaps to exist between generations, but that doesn’t mean parents should take a backseat.
As technology continues to advance, parents need to try their best to keep up with their “iGeneration” children — and part of that involves identifying how things have changed and adapting our parenting techniques accordingly.
We never had to worry about a constant influx of news
“News” used to be something that occured once or twice a day — when the morning paper arrived on the doorstep and when the 6 o’clock news aired on TV. But where, when, and how we consume media has come a long way since then. Today, news (sometimes more bad than good) is constantly delivered online, which has led many modern parents to exhibit fearful behavior — according to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, 48% of kids would bike or walk to school in 1969, but this number dropped to just 13% by 2009. The world isn’t necessarily worse off than it was when we were kids, but the 24/7 news cycle definitely makes it feel like a more dangerous place and today’s parents tend to exercise extra caution for everything, including technology.
We never had to worry about the permanence of the internet
Classroom notes can be ripped up, diaries can be locked away, but online content doesn’t disappear so easily. Thanks to screen-grabbing and cloud technology, a post, photo, or comment can live forever, even if it’s been “deleted” — a scary concept for parents with young children. What’s more, our sense of privacy has been reduced to an online setting. As a result, today’s parents need to educate themselves about these potential risks and learn how to properly communicate their tech decisions to kids (a simple “yes” or “no” isn’t always going to cut it). Explaining the concept of “forever” in Buzz Lightyear terms can help children understand that things shared online will last to infinity — and beyond.
We never had to worry about anonymous bullying
Bullying is hardly a new concept, but the shape and scope of it has changed dramatically since the introduction of the internet. For starters, chat rooms, comment sections, and instant messaging make it difficult for parents to keep up with their kids’ daily interactions — and unlike when we were growing up, conflicts can’t often be resolved by speaking to the principal. It can sometimes feel like there are no real-world consequences, but online harassment can have devastating effects, and it impacts more kids than you may think: in 2016, it was reported that 33.8% of students (age 12 to 17) had been cyberbullied. It’s more important than ever for parents to be aware of and sensitive to their children’s behavior, both online and off.
We never had to worry about taking (or sharing!) selfies
Using a digital camera is miles away from shaking a Polaroid picture. Developing pictures and videos used to require a special trip to the photo lab, but that’s all a vague memory now that everyone has a cell phone. Today, in addition to worrying about what kids are taking pictures of, we also have to monitor how they choose to share these photos — it was easy to know who could see printed photos in an album, but pictures that go online can be shared far and wide (often without your or your kids’ knowledge); private photos shared on Facebook, for example, are still linked to an individual account that can be targeted by hackers and trolls. Parents also have to be aware of the growing culture of social validation that surrounds all social media.
We never had to worry about keeping up with the Kardashians (or anything else for that matter)
Back in the day, TV shows aired once — and only once. If you missed an episode of Growing Pains, you would have to rely on a friend to recount the details. Similarly, getting hold of the new Prince album required a trip to the record store, reading the latest celebrity interview meant buying a magazine, and being one of the first to see Madonna’s newest video required staying up late to watch MTV. For today’s kids, all of this is available at the touch of a button, and staying on top of all the omg-you-have-to-see-this content, can sometimes feel like more work than play. It’s equally, if not more, important to keep up with your kids’ content in addition to your own; by knowing what your kids are consuming online, you can help them make smart and safe decisions.
Parenting today is different than it was a decade ago. We may not like watching unboxing videos or making slime out of glue — but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t appreciate that our kids do like those things. So, while we can’t keep our finger on the pulse of every trend, it’s important to remain cognizant of how are kids are interacting with technology and to create a safe space at home to talk about these digital risks and rewards.
Photo Credits: Syda Productions / Shutterstock, jfk image / Shutterstock, charnsitr / Shutterstock, happydancing / Shutterstock