Parenting is Hard Both Online and Offline
From the moment our children are born, we, as parents, worry. At every stage, someone who has an older child tells us to “enjoy it now, it only gets worse”. However, when we are looking at our toddler putting everything into her mouth and worried that she is going to choke on something the moment we turn our head in the other direction for a second, we can’t imagine how it can get worse. I always felt that the first few years of childhood for parents is spent trying to keep their kids alive.
When our kids first enter elementary school, we start to worry a bit less about them hurting themselves every moment and more about others hurting them – whether it’s stranger danger or peer issues. We worry that they have friends that invite them to play, that they have people to sit with at lunch, that no one is bullying them, that they don’t talk to or go with a stranger that might approach them at the park.
In the past few years, those fears have extended beyond just their physical world into the online world as well. The internet has become part of most every child’s life and it’s the rare child that has no experience with it by the time they are 8 years old.
Every so often when I’m speaking at parenting workshops, there is a parent who approaches me to tell me how her child isn’t online and most of them seem to want a congratulatory pat on the back from me. I don’t offer that pat on the back, instead I ask them about socialization. The online world or internet isn’t the enemy and if a parent isn’t teaching their child how to safely and properly use the internet, I believe they are missing an important part of parenting today. The internet isn’t going away and it will forever, in one form or another, be a part of our kids’ lives. Just as we must teach them about stranger danger in the real world, we MUST teach them about it in the virtual world as well.
Parents have a responsibility to protect their children and that includes their online lives as well as their offline lives. When your kids are young, you must make sure that they know that you will be checking up on them online. Parents need to have usernames and passwords. A note of caution however – I believe that checking up on your kids online activity is a good idea – IN MODERATION. I do NOT believe that parents should be looking at every text, every email and every post everyday. Once or twice a week, you can check in and scan through their online profiles. If you see something you don’t like, use it as a teachable moment and tell your child why the post needs to be deleted. Expect your child to make mistakes – learning is part of childhood and allowing our kids to make mistakes helps them learn right from wrong.
Just like I’m not going to spend the day at school with my child and watch them in class or during recess, I shouldn’t be dissecting everything they do online. Oversight is important in all areas of parenting but that doesn’t mean that parents should be micro-managing every aspect of their child’s online of offline life.