Parenting In The Digital Age: Recognizing The Difference Between Curiosity & Spying

By Olivia Reese, Parent Herald November 03, 12:47 am

Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are some of the apps that many children and teenagers use nowadays that parents are unfamiliar with. With these new mediums, parenting in the digital age just got way more challenging.

Dr. Devorah Heitner, a media expert, recently talked to CBS Boston to advise moms and dads on how to parent their children in the digital world. According to Heitner, it's important for parents to be aware of the social media apps and text messaging platforms that their kids use. However, parents must also recognize the difference between being curious and spying on their children's whereabouts on the internet.

Heitner, who wrote a book titled "Screenwise, Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World," also stressed that parents must be an example to their children when it comes to using smartphones and gadgets. For instance, if a parent wants their teenage son or daughter to avoid texting while driving, the parent should not do that as well. Same with eating at the dining table with smartphones on their hands, checking Instagram or Snapchat.

Heitner said that the "mentor but not monitor" parenting approach is vital in the digital age. Monitoring children's online activity is vital but mentoring youngsters about what might happen to them on the internet without adult supervision is more important. Parents should also make sure that they have their children's trust when it comes to opening up about any alarming experiences on social media.

Similar advice was provided by leading cybersecurity company ExpressVPN in their child safety guide online. Going into great detail, ExpressVPN resident expert Brad believes not only should parents mentor their children online, parents should also provide their kids with concrete advice. This includes educating them on the use of security tools and software updates as long as well strategies they can use online to avoid harmful sites and revealing information online

Vicki Shotbolt, the founder of The Parent Zone, said it is parents' responsibility to teach children about privacy tools and controls. Parents should talk to their kids about what they can share on social media and what info should be kept private, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). Helping children set up their first tablet or smartphone also allows parents to give advice.

Keeping track of children's internet activity can be hard. Spying is out of the question, though, and the simplest way for parents to be up-to-date of their kids' online activity is simply by asking them.

"The internet won't be a mystery if you show an interest and let your children show you what they like. Just remember not to criticize it too much. It is their culture and every generation needs something different," Shotbolt explained, as quoted by NSPCC.

Have any advice about parenting children in the digital age? How do you ensure your kids' safety online? Share your thoughts below.

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