Parenting has never been easy, but a generation ago it was at least easier to tell exactly what your child was doing on any particular device. The radio and CDs were for listening to music. Atari and Nintendo were for playing games. Phones were for making calls.
Technology was simpler then, and rarely did different types of media collide the way we see today. Ask yourselves these questions:
- Is Halo 4 a video game, or a social network?
- Is iPod Nano a music player, or a computer?
- Is YouTube a video sharing site, or a place to make friends?
The next time you have to pause and ask yourself, “Is my child playing a video game or is he on a social networking site?” the answer is most likely: “both.” Technology is evolving to the point where the line between different types of media is disappearing.
This is one reason why parenting today is so confusing. No longer can you assume what a child is doing on any particular site or device, because they could be doing anything. A teenage girl can use her cell phone to sext her boyfriend just as easily as she can use it to research her homework online or text her mom to ask for a ride home from the mall.
When phones are more often used as cameras, and you can spend more time on Facebook playing Farmville than you do socializing, it’s difficult to know just how your children are using technology.
The number one thing parents should know is that most of today’s devices incorporate at least some aspects of social networking, and traditional social networking sites have absorbed many of the other functions of the devices our kids use.
Parents need to be aware of the general movement toward a new all-in-one media, and they need to be aware of all the capabilities of their children’s electronics and devices.
Use appropriate parental monitoring software and set reasonable limits on the media your child uses. Above all, do not be fooled into believing that your child’s gaming system is just for games or his music listening device is just for music. Almost everything is a social network, and deserves the same kind of monitoring you use to protect their safety and privacy on Facebook.
Tim Woda is a passionate advocate for protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers – cyberbullying, sexting and online predators. He is the co-founder of uKnow.com, developers of uKnowKids.