Parents share a common notion that their teenagers are from a different planet. Hairstyles, vocabulary, opinions and most notably their opinion of their parents change. The 21st century child is not only from a different world, they are digital citizens. They are comfortable and at home in the digital world. This is where they find information, make friends and share life.
Where is the Digital World?
The digital world is comprised of our activities on the internet. The friends we have on social media, the websites we visit and the comments we make are our digital identity. Social media has highlighted the effects of our digital identity. Our activities stay on the web forever. Teenagers have a sense of safety once they log on to the internet. It is like they enter another world. They have an enhanced identity, can say things they wouldn’t say otherwise and feel more confident in general.
Unfortunately this is a false sense of safety which often leads to issues like cyber bullying, addiction and isolation. People would often take to social media to bully their peers, with much worse effects than we are used to. Children are also prone to isolate themselves from the ‘outside’ world because the people they meet and activities they get involved in are so much more enjoyable than the reality of their family life. When you add the world of online gaming to this picture you end up with a potentially dangerous situation.
‘Fun and Games’ or Real-life?
In many cases parents mistake children’s online activities for fun and games. The reality is that today teenagers practically live online. The people they talk to and the things that they post online are very important. Children are vulnerable when they go online. Kevin Honeycutt notes that “kids are playing on a digital playground and no one is on recess duty.” Parents and educators need to embrace the message of cyber wellness.
The explosion of mobile technology has put the world in our pockets. Smartphones and mobile devices are proving to be a valuable educational tool. Parents are often oblivious to the activities which their children are busy with while ‘playing’ on their phones. Education in the 21st century should equip children as digital citizens. Responsible behaviour in an online environment needs to be modelled for the next generation. Parents would do well to show their children which kind of comments are acceptable and how a simple picture can change the way others see you. In addition to this a new kind of generation gap is starting to develop. As far as possible parents and adults need to partake in social media with their kids.
Tips for Parents
- Google – use google to show and teach your children what they look like in the digital world by searching themselves
- Embrace social media – learn about various networks by becoming an active user. Engage with your children on these networks. If they see you acting responsibly on social media, they will too. Whether we like it or not, social media is the future rather than a craze.
- Conversation – take note of the trends on social media and have conversations with your children about responsible use and proper conduct
- Education – find ways and even pay money to help your kids use the digital world to their advantage. They can watch and make videos, follow some of their favourite and reputable celebrities (might be difficult to find both favourite and reputable), teach them to find world news by using social media etc.
- Safety – Monitor your child’s safety by adjusting the privacy settings on their devices and social network.
Life in the digital world is more than just fun and games. As our digital footprint increases we need to show our children how to follow in our footsteps. Cyber Wellness is the pathway to producing healthy digital citizens.