The Sort-of Fine Art of Being a Digital Parent
Our work interacts with various niche groups, as well as an array of ages and diverse cultures. On both a professional and personal level, it is vital for our success (and yours) to have a team that spans interests and activities in various digital platforms. Today’s blog post is another example of how thoughtful our team is regarding our industry, and the every-day issues that may arise — both on the job, and at home. Oh, the plight of the digital parent!
My son came home from school a few weeks back and told me that the “kids” aren’t into Facebook anymore and everyone is calling it “Mombook” because all the Moms are on it. He then said all the kids have Instagram accounts. For a split-second I felt kinda cool since (a) I knew what an Instagram account was and our company often works with that platform; and (b) even I have an Instagram account.
“But Mom,” my son said, “the FBI guy who did the presentation at school today said Facebook owns Instagram. Is that true? If so, then it’s just like Mombook. We should probably call it Momagram.”
And there it went, that second I was cool was gone in a flash. (Little did he know he also reminded me of mammograms… another “Mom” thing, but no need to go there.) And it continued. “You don’t let me have my own Instagram account. I’m old enough. Why do you have to be so mean? I’m in middle school.” (And the oldie but goodie…) “All my friends have one!!!”
No one in the past ever said raising a fine, upstanding, well-behaved child was easy…. Nowadays, we also have to navigate the waters of appropriate digital behavior as well.
A few weeks back, we had the conversation with our son (the 12-year-old) about his desire for a Skype account to talk with other players in Minecraft – people he did not know from school, or from sports teams, but players he met in-world. Yes, yellow flags for any parent! What if “John” was a 45-year-old creepy man praying on young children? [Insert a heavy sigh.]. Ahhh, the plight of naive youth and suspicious parents (especially parents like me, who is privy to the online actions of various types of people, both good and bad, and everything in between).
We have to let him grow up at some point, right? So, we set up the computer in our living room (and open space), with full volume, allowing for us, the alert, ever-attentive parents, to completely eavesdrop on every conversation. [‘No son, the Bill of Rights does not exist in this house, save it for your Poli Sci class in college because Mom’s not having any of it.’]
And soon after, as with most things, the novelty of Skype has worn off (or maybe it was having his conversations about killing creepers broadcast through the house?). Things returned to quasi-normal state for one child…. Cue the 9-year-old girl with iPad texting drama.
I received a text from another Mom containing a photo of a text my daughter sent to her daughter. My daughter had written, “Stop texting me [Susie], you are destroying my life!” So, of course conversations were had and apologies made.
Time for backstory: This particular friend of my daughter’s had sent something like 34+ texts consecutively, catching my attention. Thinking this texting bonanza was a bit excessive, and that maybe my daughter should take a phone break for a bit, I had banned electronics for two hours (pretty light sentence, if you ask me). It is for this reason that the friend was “destroying” a certain young lady’s life.
The friend had covertly deleted all 34+ of her texts prior to showing her mother the final “life destroying” text from my daughter, hence the cause for concern from the mother. Text creates a whole new set of nuances (and at a much higher rate than hand-written notes passed in class). I had to explain to my daughter that text answers, at times, can create more drama and build incorrect assumptions because its missing tone and facial cues. People can easily misinterpret simple comments, or get extremely concerned with reactionary messages.
As a parent of 9-year-old and a 12-year-old, and even with all the access to online or digital experts at work, I do not always feel I have the answers (certainty for a parent is a unique, and sometimes elusive feeling). The best I can do is try to stay one step ahead, continue to track advancements and trends in technology (you know, whatever the next “Mombook” might be), communicate with my spawn regarding digital adventures, continue to monitor their digital usage, AND instill in my children a solid sense of netiquette (you know, right and wrong choices in digital behavior).
Parents of the world! Do not be afraid to call upon your community. It is not uncommon for me to ask co-workers (i.e., “gamers”) if a certain video game is appropriate for a 12 year old boy (those E, T, and M ratings are often misleading). Trolls, bullies, tween drama, digital mistakes: these things will happen (its not an “if” its a “when”). Being a part of the conversation, with your kids as well as other parents, is huge. Show interest in their communities, and their digital entertainment, it will also help you be a part of the solution.
Director of People Operations