When raising kids, parents wear a lot of hats: We become therapist, teacher, paramedic, coach, chauffeur, and referee. In today’s wired culture most of us can also confidently add “spy” to that list (I prefer superhero, but my kids insist on spy).
If you are like most engaged parents you may feel a wave of guilt now and then when you embark on your weekly spy duties. As a 007 parent you check your child’s phone, web history, monitoring reports (if you have filtering software), and, of course, you take the digital trek across his social channels, email, and texts. Oh, and don’t forget the random Google of his name.
From time to time we’ve had parents confess that they get tired of constantly checking up on their kids online and have decided to just stop the patrolling, trust their kids, and “deal” with whatever comes up.
I admit, that thought is tempting. Then I recall what coach Vince Lombardi once said: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Being a parent, I’d like to add the word “online” to the end of that sentence.
When you start to wilt on the online safety front and don’t feel like having one more conversation or checking one more Facebook feed, we want to encourage you to just stop and breathe deep. Refreshment is one nap away. Regroup, relax and starch your cape. See, your children need you to stay ahead of the curve and keep them stay safe on the digital streets. These days they need a superhero; refreshed and ready (even if they call you a spy).
Some powerful reminders:
- The real consequences of letting go of the digital reigns will be greater than any fatigue, stress, or hassle you may “feel” in this moment.
- Putting your head in the sand may save you from a few headaches, but turning a blind eye to your child’s online life is sure to cost your child far more.
- If you don’t teach your child what’s acceptable and what’s not online or teach them how to handle tough situations, their peers will gladly do it for you.
- Your child may not say it, but they prefer the “nagging” and “reminding,” to a parent who is hands off and casual about important things. All children need boundaries and structure to feel loved and valued. They just can’t (and won’t) verbalize it.
- Parents can actually become highly efficient in monitoring online activity so that parenting a digital native feels more like protecting than “spying.” Internet filtering software is a must.
- Information is power. The more you know, the better you can respond to threats around you, and the more capable you become. As confident, capable parents, we can raise confident, capable kids who make wise decisions online.
- Teaching kids about cyber bullying, sexting, hackers, predators, scammers, privacy issues, reputation and conflict management, and how to communicate well online is no different than teaching them about finances, job hunting, or safe sex. It’s all part of the parenting package. You can do this.
Oh, and one more thing: Superheroes have this crazy tendency to raise up little superheroes. And that pretty much makes the challenging—nearly overwhelming moments—of parenting in cyberspace worth it. So stay refreshed. Stay informed. And stay safe online.