This week, I read Chapter 2: “The Kids Are Alright.” Here, Heitner talks about how tech-capable kids are, but reminds us they don’t have the wisdom that comes from practice and reflection as digital citizens. Parents, on the other hand, have more wisdom about how to function in the world, but may lack technical skills and an understanding of what kids are up to. Fortunately, she sees a way through these challenges.
Heitner uses several pages to outline how kids use social media. I was surprised that they use YouTube so heavily to search and learn, and that YouTube increasingly replaces parental and peer media influence as they age. This was a blind spot for me, as YouTube is one area over which we’ve insisted on a lot of restraint. I appreciate Heitner citing such research to illustrate what’s really happening in the constantly shifting digital realm, with YouTube being just one area.
While kids are quick to embrace new forms of technology, and to find ways to sidestep adults’ restrictions, they’re not always knowledgeable about the consequences of their online actions, or about the permanent traces of themselves they leave on the web. Heitner says this is where grownups need to step in: mentoring kids about how to think about their technology use, which has lasting real-life impact on themselves and others.
Heitner cautions adults not to over-rely on roadblocks to keep kids from accessing content or function. If we focus on monitoring rather than mentoring, we may miss the chance to develop the self-regulating skills our kids need when we’re not present. Instead, she urges us to be in regular conversation with our children about how they’re functioning online, and what challenges they might encounter. I found it reassuring to close this chapter not with an overwhelming compulsion to research every possible tool my kids might use or to employ every access-limiting technique available. Rather, I feel called to focus on my relationship with my kids as their digital mentor, and to simply try and keep the conversation going.
If you haven’t yet jumped into this book, it’s not too late. Our 11yo daughter picked it up last night, read the thing cover to cover, and laughed at Brian and me for having our bookmarks on pages 19 and 44. She was skeptical about some of the content, saying “I don’t think the author really GETS how kids think. I mean, I NEVER mind when you ask me to text for you because you’re concentrating on driving.” I’ll be eager to ask her more about her take as I get farther along in the book. Anyway, it’s a quick and easy read and I invite you to pick it up. Whether or not you read the book yourself, we hope you can continue to join us in the discussion!
Post by Amy Mason (with permission to quote her daughter)