Some of us parents have made a big effort of being relatively tech-savvy. You know the type – we know how to set up a home network and are always up to date with the latest hardware and software. We think we have our kids’ tech habits under control. There are strict no-tech-before-homework rules, parental controls on all the computers, and a total of three hours a week set aside for video games. It has worked well for a while…UNTIL everything went mobile!
The lightning-fast transition to mobile technology has left me – and I’m sure a lot of other moms – on our heels. Our perfectly-controlled worlds of scheduled tech time and filtered content have been replaced by an anytime, anywhere mash up of smartphones, tablets and connected gaming devices.
So what is a concerned parent supposed to do? Well, one thing it has taught me is to focus more on being a mentor rather than a gatekeeper. If there is no way to block everything out, then the challenge is to teach good decision-making; to turn our kids into their own gatekeepers. Easier said than done.
Take the case of mobile social networking. My daughter’s first smartphone roughly coincided with the time we let her have a Facebook account. Luckily, I was able to make a deal where all e-mail notifications came to me, and almost 18 months and 500 friends later, she seems to have avoided any serious mishaps.
But like I say, things move fast in the world of technology.
Soon after she got comfortable with Facebook, she wanted a Twitter account, and then Instagram. Then it was cool to SnapChat. Then video-sharing came along with Keek and now Vine. None of these social networks and messaging tools have any controls worth talking about, although many of them are clearly aimed at a younger audience.
For parents, mobile technology has become a game of whack-a-mole, as we desperately try to keep up with all the various apps and communication platforms that are currently in vogue. And for every app that we think we understand, there are five more that we have yet to learn about. The best we can do is keep our eyes and ears open and hope that those lessons on exercising good judgment found a receptive audience.
One of the most important things we can do is to share whatever little we may know with the parents of our kids’ friends. That community is the most important one because while they may not be YOUR friends, their rules and beliefs are going to impact your child when she’s over there playing with her friend. Talk to each other about the importance of filters, the notion that unfettered access to the Internet is not a right and share trends and other links and articles that you find that have helped you continue your parenting journey.
While I still think of myself as a tech-savvy mom, I know my limitations. It’s not about knowing the hardware anymore; it’s more about keeping an open dialogue.
Monica Vila is “Chief Technology Mom,” born and raised in Mexico and co-founder of The Online Mom, the market leader in providing online and off-line tools to make parents of kids K-12 smarter and more comfortable with the technology that touches their family. The Online Mom is a website, an online newsletter, a forum for discussion, a network of certified experts and a social community devoted to promoting a healthy understanding and appreciation for the positive role technology can play in a family’s life.