As the guardian and teacher of personal security, one of the most important things a parent can do with tech-savvy kids is establish and maintain open communication. This is a lot easier said than done for two main reasons: 1) cyber communications makes it easy to keep secrets that harbor risk, and 2) the lack of control about the experiences of our children’s childhoods has never been greater.
A recent Security Intelligence article features the modern parenting challenge as simply put: children know more about the internet than their parents, who purchase mobile devices and smartphones for their children not realizing that internet access puts every good and not good app and website into the palm of their hands. And by the same token, internet-connectivity can illicit fear emotion with many parents who are worried that their children will get caught into a cyberbully trap or a snare set by a pedophile. Communicating thoughts of caution and confidence is essential to gather intelligence necessary to provide protective cover and guidance for tech-savvy kids. To accomplish this, parents must be able to get their children talking about their interests, on and off-line and then impart their wisdom.
How to get your child talking
The traditional paradigm for parenting is prevention only in the form of lecturing. The idea is that parents have more knowledge of the world than youth and so they are in a position to be the source until the child comes of age. Today’s environment introduces a dynamic where children can learn quickly how to access apps and sites as a natural expression of their curiosity, and so they are in the position to know more than their parents. This is the power crisis that mobile connectivity introduces to the parent-child bond. In this environment, parents must gather intelligence from their child in order to really know what is happening and provide protective cover. Below are some tips to get your child talking about what they know of the cyber-powered world:
- Establish that the house rule is no privacy. There is no such thing as privacy in the internet, and your job is to help your child learn how not to give up personal power. So you as the guardian monitor all cyber communications.
- Get genuinely interested in who your child is, their interests, their dreams and their struggles – without offering your opinion. Just listen and be interested.
- When you hear or learn about something that disturbs your peace, do not freak out or lecture. Ask your child open-ended questions about how a conversation on-line or an incident aligns with your values (kindness, honesty, compassion, etc.) that make someone trustworthy. Get your child thinking critically about what is happening so that they can make some decisions about how to handle themselves in the future (i.e., inappropriate photos and gossip or websites with explicit content).
- When you encounter your child doing something that needs correction or that has consequences (bullying, inappropriate content), ask your child if they want to know what you know about their circumstances. Chances are good they will want to know your thoughts, and then when you explain the wisdom of the correct way to handle things in the future and your child will be more likely to embrace it as their own. In this way, you engage their intellect and will and strengthen the trust bond.