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Digital Parenting

» Posted on 18 Nov 2013 • Raising Children, Raising Teens

As if parenting wasn't hard enough, today's digital world has brought the added complexity of helping our children navigate an unseen, ever-changing digital world that has tremendous influence in and over our lives.

Not long ago it was normal not to have a phone wherever we went. We could be out of touch for hours! Now that is unthinkable.And they're not just phones, but cameras, video recorders, gaming machines, and powerful tools for posting news for the world to see. If you have ever let your child use your smart phone or digital tablet then you've handed them power beyond your imagining and theirs.

The following are notes from a workshop by digital parenting guru, Mike Fitness (Head of Digital Learning, Hukanui Primary School):

Residents in the digital world

Today's parents of young children have grown up seeing the emergence of the digital age. We remember when the first digital watches appeared...even though all they could do was tell the time. Today's digital watches have more processing power than NASA had available when they sent people to the moon, but we still have the same basic attitude - we observe technology with awe, but as something we wear on our wrist on slip into our pockets. We are visitors to the digital world.

The next generation - our children - are not visitors but residents in the digital world. They live in it. And they need parents to enter the digital world with them and translate for this new world, the rules of conduct and wisdom we have learned in the 'real world' to get on with others and keep ourselves safe.

Recognising the digital blindspot

These tools are changing our views on what we think is appropriate news to share. While it would be strange for someone to stand up in a group and say, 'Happy first birthday son, I'm so proud of you', this is precisely the kind of news being posted every minute of every day on facebook. Somehow, when we look at a screen to share our news we 'forget' all the people who will see what we have written. Consequently awe share information we would not consider appropriate when face-to-face. Mostly it's inappropriate at the harmless end of the scale. It's news to you, but only your mother really cares. But it can also lead to dangerous information sharing ... take a look at this clip.

Managing your digital footprint

So how can we respect this power and help our children be safe and responsible? Mike recommends safekids.com for its common-sense rules on internet safety. Set some contracts with your children that clearly outline the kind of behaviour you expect to see online and how to recognise some of the dangers.

Mike also recommends one of his favourite educators on digital parenting, Kevin Honeycutt, who trains teachers, parents and children to recognise the changing landscape of our world because of the development of digital networks. For instance, there was once a day our mistakes were lost in the mists of time, now, if it's done online it stays online...forever. It will one day be looked at by a prospective employer, possibly even a future spouse. It pays to be careful.

Unleashing the creative genius

It's not all bad news of course. These digital tools have incredible power to do good things. One idea suggested was to require your children to 'rent' the use of the iPad by creating something mum or dad would be proud of. It's an incentive to do more than play games and to encourage our children to unleash their creative genius making comic strips, posters, digital puppet shows... Here are a few worth checking out (these are Apple products for iPhone, iPad, iPod but the equivalent can be found on Android sites).

  • Pic Collage
  • Strip Designer
  • Life cards
  • Puppet pals
  • Tallagami

Have fun and be safe


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