As parents, we start thinking about the hard conversations we’ll have to have with our kids long before they’re ready. Whereas our parents only had the “Birds and the Bees” conversation (and some didn’t even do that), we’re living in a different time where our neighborhood now has a global reach. From cyberbullying to the 24/7 news cycle to online predators, we have an ever-evolving list of conversations to have with our children. Feeling overwhelmed by how to broach these topics? That’s where we come in!
Our kids are incredibly smart and resourceful. Whereas our parents could avoid a topic if they wanted, our kids have the world’s information at the tip of their finger. If you don’t tell your child the truth, they’ll find out some way or another–either from a friend (who probably also has no idea, but will never admit that), a website, or a discussion board that potentially has false information. The best thing we can do for our children is to be honest, even if it feels scary. If your child is playing online games with strangers, explain the dangers that exist, warning signs to look out for, and the steps to take if they feel unsafe. By being prepared, they’re able to make informed decisions without reacting emotionally.
Keep An Open Line of Communication
Our children are learning and experiencing new things every day, which is exciting but also terrifying. They’ll have questions, some which they may not realize the depth or impact of. By creating a safe space for your child to discuss any questions, without the repercussions of you becoming uncomfortable or angry, you’ll nurture a relationship where your child feels secure coming to you once they start experiencing more situations firsthand. If your child is being cyberbullied or pressured to send photos they wouldn’t want public, let them know they can come to you. If it works for your family, come up with a code word–if your child finds themselves in a bad situation and needs help, but is afraid of getting in trouble, let them use the code word and there will be no punishment, only open conversation. Knowing they have a safe space to talk to you could potentially keep them from making harmful decisions.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
We’ll never know the experience of growing up with technology in every aspect of our lives. From competitions to who has the most followers to peer pressure to take part in risky online behavior, our children are in a new frontier. It’s scary, frustrating, and isolating. Ask your child how they are feeling and listen. If it helps your child, explain your feelings too. Knowing that you get lonely or scared or experienced peer pressure can help our kids feel know they aren’t alone.
If you remember having one-sided conversations with your parents, you probably remember how nauseatingly frustrating it was. Asking our kid’s critical questions, “How does that make you feel?,” “What did it make you think?,” or “Why do you think that?,” helps start a conversation with our children while helping them think more critically. When current events happen, including school shootings, terrorist acts, and elections, our kids are being bombarded with information–some true, some not. Even if your child isn’t on social media, their friends who are use TikTok as their main news source. By asking questions, we’re helping our children to form their own educated opinions instead of just believing everything they are told.
Do Research Together
As much as we’d like to think we know everything, technology is constantly evolving. Whereas this writer had a Xanga circa 2000, our kids learn about a new social media site, AI technology, or Elon Musk conquest every day. If your child asks you if they can have a BeReal account and you have no idea what that is, admit you don’t know and start a dialogue. Does your child think you are being archaic for not letting them have a TikTok? Show them the statistics (or read our helpful article here) about all the negative effects of social media on children. While they’ll probably still roll their eyes at you, at least they’ll know where you’re coming from and that you aren’t just being cruel.
Parenting in the digital age can be as confusing as trying to explain the character arcs of Game of Thrones to an 80-year-old. These conversations don’t have to be scary or cringey–by creating an open relationship with your child to discuss technology, you both get to learn while creating a lifelong connection with one another. We believe the technology our kids use should benefit them, not exploit them (like our kids smartwatch phone). Whether you choose our kids phone watch or not, we’re here to give you the information you need to make the best decision for your family and get the peace of mind you deserve!