Crash Course in Digital Literacy

by Moms With Apps on April 14, 2012

A month ago I watched the “Angry Dad” video, a viral segment showing a Dad’s gun-wielding reaction to his daughter’s Facebook post. Later on the radio, I was reminded about the college student who jumped off a bridge after his roommate streamed video footage over Twitter. At a recent conference, I heard from a YouTube panelist about what (some) teens are doing online.

At that same conference where I saw the cutting videos, Adora Svitak also spoke. She’s the child prodigy (i.e., the TED talk girl) who has written three books and advocates that this “new frontier” of interconnectivity and accessibility is full of potential for young people.

Potential?

Angry Dads and Nasty Letters.

Potential?

Hidden cameras and suicide.

Potential?

Cutting, tears, confusion.

Welcome to the mind of a 40 year old mother, of a child going on nine. We’ve got a new world to face, and it’s not just about parental controls. Are my kids going to find more comfort in their social networks, or in their family? Will they be responsible or destructive digital citizens? How will they derive their self worth at the age of 13? We’ll need a new set of tools, and a new map to navigate.

Our topics of conversation might be something closer too…

  • Before you Log In and create an account, think about what you want your screen name to represent.
  • What types of things do you want to share about yourself? Why?
  • How are you going to feel when your best friend gets more followers than you, or vice versa?
  • If someone writes a comment that makes you feel bad, how are we going to handle it?
  • What are our house rules for screentime? How much time will you need to connect with your friends online? How much do you think is too much? What is not enough? How much involves homework? How much involves socializing?
  • What’s your idea for a family activity this weekend?
  • We’re going on a vacation, how does everyone feel about leaving the plugs at home? If not, then what’s acceptable, and what’s not?
  • What does it mean to have friends that are kind? What friends do you enjoy most? Why? Which friends stress you out? Why?

How do you feel about yourself? “I don’t know.”  Because you should feel great about yourself. You’re incredible, fun to be around, insightful, wise, beautiful, and inventive. And if I had to choose anyone in the entire world to hang out with, I’d choose you.

Lorraine Akemann | Editor | Moms With Apps

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna Hines April 15, 2012 at 10:03 am

An important message, Lorraine, and very well said. Thank you!

Karri Gregor April 16, 2012 at 7:09 am

Really good stuff Lorraine. It is a scary digital world for our kids. No longer are the enemies only predators posing as adolescences. We have newly defined personalities to deal with. How do you handle a ‘frienemy’?

My kids are a little older, heading out of their teens and (knock on wood) we have been successful navigating e-world. Parents of younger children need to be even more aware than i was, so much has changed in the last 5 years. I can’t help thinking that most of the problems Lorraine mentioned could have been thwarted by an involved adult.

My best advice? Listen. Shut up and listen. You have to hear the whole teen drama before you will be respected enough to be permitted offer any input. Be available. They always need to talk when you are dead tired or busy. Clear time because you won’t get another chance.
You can make all the screen time rules you want but if they aren’t built on relationship, it’s an uphill battle.

Thanks for posting this topic. I hope someone finds my tips helpful.

Moms With Apps April 16, 2012 at 9:36 am

Thanks @Anna for reading.

@Karri, I think comments from your perspective, which includes experience with raising teens, is helpful for those of us about to join the ranks. –Lorraine

Dina Kyle April 16, 2012 at 11:31 am

So true Lorraine, Technology is a WONDERFUL but it can be so deadly in the wrong hand or misused.

margaret April 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Great / thought provoking post. Your points about topics of conversation make good sense and are something I wish I spent more time with my own children discussing.

Looking back, I was lucky that my kids’ middle school devoted class time to usage of FB as well as added policies on use.

Mostly – thank you for this insightful post.

Alesha April 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Beautiful, thought provoking post. Thanks Lorraine.

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