Smartphones, cell-phones… ipods-pads-tablets and snap-chat, common currency in today’s pre-teen cultural exchange. From the school bus to the family sofa, kids are using technology younger and younger every year. The tsunami of media has fully crashed into the pre-teen world with a vengeance and we parents are left trying to learn how to sink or swim in the backwash. As a media executive (Bema Media – Franklin TN) I work with video, music and online assets every day. I live this stuff and I’m all too aware of how much I don’t know.
How do we navigate this rushing wall of water we call media ?
Netflix, Hulu… snapchat, twitter, vine, instagram, YouTube and megashare all providing instant and mature content for anyone with a wi-fi signal to download, stream or snap. Kids today are not only being bombarded with millions of new home videos, selfies and R to XXX rated images…more often than not, an average ten-year old will get to “decide” for themselves today what is or isn’t appropriate to ingest with just a smart phone and five minutes un-supervised.
As parents, we are often left confused and disoriented by the almost infinite variety of online options being marketed to our pre-teens and teens. The viral marketing of ideas, brands and values is becoming the daily hot topic of every kids conversation. From the latest music video to the funniest pet or baby post on twitter, kids are combing through the very best and the very worst of mankind’s creative extrusions.
It’s a frightening landscape for parents to traverse safely and for most of us, no matter how aware we think we are of our kids online activities… we’re woefully out of touch and way behind their learning curve.
Knowing the patterns of an average pre-teen and their use of technology might be a good thing to consider before you go and sit down with your sixth grader to ask some basic questions.
Media activities make up more than a quarter of a 6-12 year-old’s waking day. (*source DIS magazine – tween tech article) It’s clear that our pre-teens are now entering a virtual world that we may not even realize exists.
Other sources suggest that tweens are now consuming an average of 80 hours of media a week, and doing so with three separate media forms simultaneously. (Mobile phone- iPod – laptop – TV – PlayStation/Xbox etc..)
Pre-teens are consuming media faster than we ever have… they are experimenting and learning how to visualize, create and share their lives, ideas and passions with technology. The smart-phone is not going away, and the use and abuse of these amazing micro-wonders must be at the top of any parents awareness at all times.
Setting some Ground rules:
Parents we will need to consider carefully at what age we “allow” our kids to have access to these mind-bending portals of poetry, art, history…culture and stranger danger. How amazing will be the world our kids inherit, and how deep and dark it may become.
As long as they live with us, we’ll need to help them understand the dangers and avoid the pitfalls of an online mine field. Keeping a close eye on their browser histories, online “friends” and file sharing… is a MUST. To develop your own ground-rules is an important step in raising pre-teens and teens in the digital age.
A clear sign of responsibility, privilege and independence… granting a pre-teen or teen the right to have their own smart phone is a huge rite of passage today and for parents not a decision to be made lightly or from a consumer “peer” pressured perspective 🙂
Take the time to understand your child’s world, listen to what they listen to… watch what they watch and pay close attention to their social patterns of communication. Everything from sexting to homework cheats and dangerous bullies are in those lives… it’s our job to discover those “good” and “bad” influences and enforce some clear-cut boundaries appropriate for their age.
Having “the TALK”
This blog is a reminder to re-engage and have the “talk” – no not the sex talk, the “tech” talk. Helping our kids learn and grow is always a parents priority – but in our world, teaching them safety and protection online is a first step in developing their own “thinking process” for filtering out the bad and allowing the good.
What an amazing opportunity we have to help our kids discover truth and faith and values… don’t hate technology, embrace it… WITH them.
FYI – I didn’t get my girls smartphones until they went to college. My son, a junior in High School… still uses a flip phone cell. You can slow this down…but it’s very hard. In the end, instant communication can be a bit too much drama for the average parent to endure, but you know your kids the best. We can’t police their every action…but we can be clear on what’s right and wrong and work with them to “filter” out the crud and protect their hearts and minds for adulthood.
May God provide you with deep reservoirs of wisdom and insight as you seek to keep your kids on the path of life !
Peace and Grace,
Teaching them to “filter”