Today we are exposed to a new language of technology that changes as fast as it goes instantly ‘viral’ (or instantly global). If we aren’t paying attention, we are not keeping up with our ‘wired’ youth, who are in cyberspace, uploading; downloading; on social media with social networks; tuned in on you-tube; surfing the net; texting; gaming, chat messaging; live streaming… and the list goes on.
With technological advances that change daily, how do we as parents and grandparents hope to understand the impact of the internet and technology on youth today? We access the internet and use the technology as we need to, but our children have been immersed in it, so how do cyber-tourists like ourselves raise responsible cyber-citizens?
This is a new world for me as I was not introduced to the internet until 1995 while attending college. I was excited about it, overwhelmed by it, but very cautious at the same time. The lure of posting and sending messages on my computer that were instantly ‘out there’ was scary. I was raised in a private domain, where we wrote our innermost feelings in a personal diary and tucked it away safely trusting that it was ok to grow beyond our words and they would not be held against us for the entire world to see. Now, I have learned that every time I press ‘send’ it can enter a public domain.
I have learned through my work about the negative side of posting too much personal information when youth skim over the keyboard, connecting, socializing, posting pictures and videos, and sending messages. Most youth born after 1992 have been exposed to the internet every day in some way. In the process many have also experienced cyber-bullying, online luring, sexting (sending or receiving sexual pictures, messages or videos via text message) and other online activities that influence their perceptions of the world.
How do we as parents keep our children and teens safe? We start by understanding internet immersion and why internet safety is so important. Internet immersion is being connected, with instant access, anywhere, anytime with anyone. It provides for new learning tools at home, at school, with peers and in the community that are readily accessible, for free or at a low cost.
Internet safety means we need to be vigilant in our supervision of our children as they learn to access the internet, to teach them that they are responsible for everything they send, every time they press enter. Learning good computer literacy and etiquette are important skills for youth growing up in a diverse and technological global environment. But mostly, internet safety is about having open conversations to promote healthy behavior online and it is key to always be a positive role-model to all children and youth in our lives. My discussion about internet immersion and internet safety will be ongoing as I hope to create a dialogue with readers about their experiences and challenges while engaging their youth with the latest technology.
I will share more information about the impact of technology on youth today, to address the risks and threats that are too often a reality in our world. But, in light of that, we still need to appreciate the many ways it has improved our lives; we are connected no matter where we live if we choose to be. I know that new ‘must have’ gadgets will be just around the corner to entertain and educate bringing new challenges for both parents and educators.