While driving my daughters to school one morning, I shared a story of their aunt (my big sis), age ten, sleep walking. “With her eyes completely closed, she went to the record player in our living room and started drinking off the arm as if it was a faucet” I explained. “What’s a record player?” asked my youngest, age seven.
Lament though many adults do the ever-expanding presence of technology in children’s lives, unless you are embracing the wisdom of third party experts to educate your children about digital safety, you too are sleepwalking. Permit Parenting 2.0 to provide your wake up call!
Wake up point number one: Fire yourself. “Allowing children to roam free on technology today is no more appropriate than permitting them to roam free on freeways” Tshaka Armstrong, founder of Digital Shepherds accurately stated at Parenting 2.0’s first P20 Talks Conference. Unless digital safety is your full-time passion, however, stop pretending to be an expert. Doing so merely passes on a false sense of security and endangers your entire household. While you may believe your child is playing an innocent computer game, hackers may be stealing his social security number – yes his – and accessing also passwords to your banking information. Heed this call to embrace humility and seek the wisdom of third party educators like Tshaka and others.
Wake up point number two: The danger in the mirror. Over ninety percent of child molesters are friends and family – not strangers that track your child down via a computer screen. Stop saying “It won’t happen to my children” or if it did “they would tell me.” Statistics prove otherwise. One out of three females, one out of six males in the US will be molested before the age of 18. Naive parents – not strangers – are at fault. Wake up and protect your child. Add Jill Starishevsky’s book “My Body Belongs to Me” to your parental tool chest when s/he is two – yes two not twelve! Saying no to adults takes practice – empower and protect your toddler! If your child says uncle Jimmy or Grandpa touched him in a way that made him uncomfortable – believe him!
Wake up point number three: Use technology to bond with your child. Yes bond. Parents who prevent children from accessing technology leave them just as vulnerable to danger as parents who fail to educate their children about child abuse. While there are mountains of scientific information to support that less technology is most assuredly best for brain development in small children, technology can provide a powerful bonding opportunity with your school-age child. Embrace the philosophy of Edutainment as espoused by Digital Safety expert Kristy Bjorkland Davis. Use technology to have fun and connect with your child not simply restrict or scare them. Very often, children know more than parents thanks to exchanges with friends. Rather than being threatened by this, set the example of life-long learning and permit them to teach you a few things. And then -like everything else you do as a parent – use their moves and the advice of experts to stay one step ahead of them.
Thank you to all the Parenting 2.0 Humanitarians who served as Thought Leaders for P20 Talks 2012 Digital Safety Panel: Tshaka Armstrong, Robin Sax, Kristine Bjorkland Davidson, Melissa Pazen, and Etel Leit.