I talk to parents on a regular basis. In fact, I am a parent of an 11 year old girl. As one of the founders of ZABRA, I’m always interested in what parents think of social media, mobile phones, texting, etc. and what their kids are doing online. Most of them are perplexed by their kid’s habits when it comes to these mediums. I have to admit, I am too, but then again, I’m not….it’s my job whether I work for ZABRA or not.
I think back to the days when I was a kid or a teenager. Of course I was a little nerdy, I was very captivated by electronics and communication devices. I was also enthralled with being on my bike and exploring the neighborhood while hanging out with friends. The key here is “friends.” Sound familiar in the age of social media and text messaging? Looking back, I was a connector of people. Whether it was for a pick-up game of basketball, backyard football game or building ramps to jump our bikes to flashlight tag after dinner, it was fun to have all the kids together hanging out having a good time.
I’ve been reading the book, It’s Complicated, The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd. Although this book is a couple of years old, it delves into the murky depths of social media in today’s teens and tweens. Her hypothesis? Kids are basically the same no matter which era they grew up in. Many of us long for connection with friends and people. Instead of using the phone connected to a wall in our house or walking next door to see if someone can come outside and play, kids use their social media and text messaging to connect with their friends. They’re not limited by proximity. “Friends” nowadays can be the ones right next door or a couple of hundred miles away and be “in” on the action.
The definition of “friend” has surely changed based on the ability for technology (social media, mobile phones, skype, the internet). Sounds pretty awesome right? But, the rules change when you become a parent.
The influences my daughter faces on a daily basis are tough to keep track of thanks to the wonders of technology. By and large I think technology is a good thing. However, no matter if it’s in the real world or virtual world, part of my job as a parent is to protect the influences on my daughter as much as I can. And, when influences challenge her, that she is able to make a good decision and if she makes a bad one, then hopefully the consequences aren’t life altering.
The title of this blog is “Parenting is tough. It’s time to take action!” As parents, we rely on feedback from others in order to raise our children. From teachers and coaches to troop leaders and fellow parents, we get that feedback (sometimes whether we like it or not) from these folks to help course correct when needed, praise when appropriate and help our kids be the best they can be. So, why not have that teacher, coach, leader or parent in the digital world?
ZABRA provides the type of feedback that parents, who may be a little intimidated by the whole social media thing, need to understand the kind of influences that are happening with their children in the digital world. We’ve all the read the horrible headlines about bullying, sexting, and suicide due to online harassment. One momentary lapse in judgment by a kid with a cell phone could haunt them for the rest of their lives. I’m certainly glad my bad choices as a kid weren’t broadcast for the whole world to comment on. In today’s world, that is the reality. I hope that your child never has to experience what others have, are going through and will go through because of a poor choice they made online. A picture, a comment, a video or a rant can be viewed by millions of people in a matter of minutes in today’s world. Their future lives are potentially at stake. These decisions affect the college they’ll be accepted to, the jobs that they apply for and the lives that they will one day lead.
Now is the time to take action. Get ahead of the curve. Whether your child is a straight A student, middle of the class or on the bubble of making good grades, every child needs positive influences, especially in the digital world. The stakes are high but this is why we created ZABRA. While it won’t prevent a bad choice, you’ll at least know about it or see it coming and ZABRA can be that teacher, coach, leader or other parent that will help you talk to your child and be the hero you are in your children’s eyes.
Got questions? Email me: email@example.com