Christina Tynan-Wood of Momster is a proponent of allowing kids to engage online with parental supervision, not parental control. In a post on Parenting in the Digital age, Christina argues against blocking access to social media, noting that blocking these tools is not the answer and could hinder their future success.
“Despite the hassles, confusion, worry and time it takes to supervise my kids online, I still think they’re growing up in an amazing era and, if anything, I envy them for enjoying a childhood where every question can be answered instantly, friends are a few taps away and staying in touch with people you meet anywhere is simple. The Internet is the most incredible learning and social tool ever created. I can’t even imagine how much I would know now if I’d had easy access to this much information all my life. But this tool is simply reality for my kids, and necessary to their future success in college and work. Refusing to let them learn to use it seems a bit like refusing to let them learn science because they might blow something up.”
As Christina notes, blocking is often ineffective anyway, as kids are creative at circumventing the rules. Engaging with your kids online offers a “supervised” way for kids to develop the skills they need for their generation, while offering parents another way to engage with their kids.
For more on integrating technology into your parenting, Christina has also written some posts on how to groom your teen’s online reputation for job hunting, the smart use of location-tracking devices and location-aware apps and how to parent your child on social media. The tips in the latter post bear repeating, as they offer simple guidelines on how to stay active parenting our kids online:
- Follow the age requirements
- Be an active social media parent
- Encourage privacy
- Keep conversations going
- Yank their social media privileges if they misuse it
We agree with Christina that it’s important to have ongoing dialogues about device safety and online behaviour, whether it is about basic mobile safety tips, common scams that target kids, or specific discussions around services such as Instagram or Snapchat. As a parent, by participating in these services, we can keep an eye on our children while also staying alert to potential trends that require additional dialogue (such as the beauty pageant trend that cropped up on Instagram).