Parents: Are You in Denial of These 3 Big Digital Realities?

1. Your kids need online social networks. You may be dreading the day your child turns 13 since all she wants for her birthday is her long-awaited Facebook account. And you may even decide to hold out a few more years before allowing her to open one. Your fear of the web, and people, gaining more influence in your child’s life, is valid—as are your concerns for your child’s personal safety. It’s a daunting place to be as a parent.

Still the reality remains: Social networking is here to stay. Today’s youth connect on social networks in the same way your generation hung out on the boulevard. It’s the reality of growing up digital. In fact, many teens see no separation between their online and offline conversations. It’s seamless. Teens see their phones as their social lifelines (just try and hide it and you will see the physical affect that has on their breathing, reasoning, and heart rate). Online (mobile) is where their peers hang out; it’s where they get their desired approval and affirmation. If you have a teenager it’s likely, your opinion and influence has dropped in the rankings lately. Kids get their news, entertainment, and even their required academics online.

Social networks will continue to play a critical role in your child’s life as he becomes a young adult and enters the workforce. He will likely get his first job connection online, his charities and civic connections, and—whether it meets with your approval or not—social networks will also likely be where he finds his marriage partner.

2. No, you really can’t compare your childhood to your child’s. Your child is a digital native. You are a digital immigrant. Your child came out of the womb wired for tech. You have evolved with technology and have acquired the skills that come naturally to them. For that reason, your child’s motor, logic, reasoning skills, and frames of reference are far different from yours.

The reality: The oft common phrase “when I was your age I . . .” really doesn’t apply. In fact, it’s beyond antiquated. Go ahead and purge it from your files.

As a parent of a 21st century child, you cannot personally relate (although you can educate yourself) to the experience of growing up in a digital world. Our kids have grown up with unprecedented learning opportunities, an expectation of innovation, and the ability to impact humankind in ways not possible to their parents.

With that, they also have incredible pressures such as the need to share their daily successes and failures in the digital spotlight. Potentially, their self-esteem, opinions, and internal drive is either extinguished or ignited each day by people outside of their family. In that realm, your child does not always have the wisdom to operate in this digital land with the degree of emotional and physical safety necessary.

That’s where you come in. Yes, your role as a parent is more critical than ever. With the digital age, so too, comes the call for superhero-like parenting skills. 

3. It’s okay to ask your child for help. It’s tough to hand over the “teaching” reigns to your child when it comes to learning the digital ropes, but if you want to accelerate your tech chops it’s a wise move.

Yes, you still need to lead in plenty of other critical areas of your child’s development but—face it—your child has got you lapped on this front. Asking your child for help in areas of his strength is a great way to build a the parent-child bond.

This seemingly abrupt technology injection into the family unit is not an interruption—it’s an era. Just as industrialization, globalization and other socio-economic shifts have impacted the family, this digital era is also a game changer. And, everyone in the family plays a role as to what degree—either positive or negative—technology will change the family dynamic.

What are the biggest challenges you have as the parent of a digital native? Please share!

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