Driver’s training. There were three of us, then 16-year-old kids, who positively tell a similar story. Sharing a brief 5 hours together that week, we learned the road rules somewhere between a long loop of Elvis music on Oldies radio and our instructor’s take on Karaeoke. He was definitely a big fan and excited to tune in for the Elvis birthday broadcast. I don’t remember much else about the experience, not learning to parallel park, or even where we went. For me, the class was a mere requirement to get a driver’s license. — Like most baby drivers, I thought my driving knowledge was adequate already. I just needed to get a paper so I could legally steer the wheel.
Fast forward two decades, and a driver’s license is now one of the last desired freedoms for kids. Many have known independence as early as preschool age, when they began “driving” on digital roads and surfing the web. They have a strong understanding of how technology works, and their experience easily befuddles the idea that a click of their fingers could suddenly lead to danger. They may ask ‘why all the fuss’ when a parent tries to shield them from new threats. It makes sense.
We didn’t share details of internet danger with our kids when they first learned to use computers. We just removed the web from their devices and only downloaded the 4+ games. I mean, who tells their kids about such things as cyberbullying and sextortion when they’re only 5?! How do you have a conversation like that?
I can’t even believe it, but our oldest is now in junior high! He’s at an age of which social media and digital communication are essential elements for connection. He craves autonomy, and we know it is important for his growth. Kids need guidance with these things before they “leave the nest.” But it’s so scary! Digital freedom can lead to a web of darkness.
Here’s the concern, as I’m sure many parents can relate. How do we effectively communicate digital safety to our kids…to reach their hearts? The key to real digital freedom is having a heart’s desire to thrive, and this can’t be forced. No one can convince the heart of another person. Our approach in talking about internet threats needs to be power-packed and positive. If the focus of our conversations is primarily on the darkness, resentment and rebellion have breeding ground, just as much as if we were to withhold freedom altogether. It’s such a tricky endeavor.
Technology is at the core of our culture. It is the primary form of communication and productivity for most jobs and social settings, and it’s not something to avoid. As summer approaches, kids all over the world will have more time to use their devices. Electronics will be a tool for many outlets, both positive and negative. The time is opportune to discuss digital safety with our kids, to guide them with electronics, to support their growth as digital citizens.
I recently discovered this site, http://www.kidsmart.org.uk. It is a great resource to start discussions and overview content. And as the web is constantly changing, so are resources and concerns. The conversation is ongoing. The goal is to listen with our hearts, not for the sake of independence, but to gain true freedom. The path is what matters.
What inspires you to be digitally safe? Is your heart longing to thrive?