We caught up with Devorah Heitner, PhD and asked her to share with us 3 tips to Raising Digital Natives.
- Ask your child before you share their image, and teach them to do the same w/ their friends.
- Teach your kid to be a real life friend, not just digital friend or follower.
- Create unplugged zones in your home and in your family’s life together.
Asking permission sets up a very respectful relationship between you and your child. It shows that you respect their privacy, and helps them understand the seriousness of sharing. It models that you think before you share. It teaches your child that her image is her own. It makes her recognize that sharing is a choice and that some things are private. Because you showed her that consideration and modeled some respect for her privacy, she’ll be more likely to ask before she shares a picture of her friends. Because of this consideration, He or she will start to expect the same consideration from her friends. Your daughter will feel empowered to say, “don’t share that,” when someone takes a photo of her. She can insist, “erase that, I didn’t say it was OK.” While kids do need to know that photographs may be taken when you haven’t given permission, you don’t want them to do this to their peers. Now that you’ve established the guidelines of respect, you can encourage your child to ask herself for permission to take or share a “selfie.”
When I look at instagram, I see many kids who are crying out for help. Images of kids who have hurt themselves abound. Many of these images are followed by numerous comments from followers, some of whom probably know the poster of the images in real life. One such image of a young girl who had cut herself and was pictured in a bloody bathtub was followed by numerous comments imploring her to stop this behavior and that she is “so beautiful.” While these messages may be somewhat gratifying or comforting to the recipient, they don’t offer what she needs, which is a strong push to seek professional help. Your kids need to know that kind comments on someone’s post about a “bummer day” may be welcome, but social media shares that indicate a more serious problem demand a real life response. Get off your phone, find a trusted adult at home or at school, and let them know what is happening. Same thing if they see bullying or harassment. Don’t wait. As a parent, if you see something on social media that another kid has shared that endangers them, don’t be afraid to be “that parent.” You may not want to be a tattletale (and indeed if it is language or something where the kid is undermining their reputation but not endangering their life, it is probably best to stay out of it…” But play out the “what ifs” and if you can see this heading in a dangerous direction, let someone know.
If your kids are young, make sure the TV, video games and computers are not taking over the most comfortable attractive zones in your home. When kids are older, let them get messy in the kitchen with their friends making pizza or cookies. Be the parent that hosts the unplugged sleepover. Be the parent that has unplugged breakfasts and dinners with your family. That means you too! Your boss can wait. Many of us are checking email hundreds of times a day. Productivity experts and family experts agree—this doesn’t help your productivity OR your relationships. If you text at dinner, don’t expect your tween or teen to leave their phone somewhere else or turn it off. Model focused conversation, eye-contact and turning off devices during family time otherwise it will be very difficult to get your teen or tween to unplug—ever.
Learn more about our guest expert: Devorah Heitner, PhD
Devorah Heitner, the founder and director of Raising Digital Natives has a PhD in Media/Technology and Society from Northwestern University. She is an experienced speaker, workshop leader, and consultant on the digital lives of children and teenagers. Dr. Heitner serves as a professional development resource for schools wishing to cultivate a culture of responsible digital citizenship. She has taught at DePaul University, Street Level Youth Media, and has spoken at public and independent schools across the United States. Dr. Heitner works directly with parents and families, and is currently writing a handbook for parents, “Raising Your Digital Native.” She has published and spoken in the field of media studies for the past ten years and she is delighted to be raising her own digital native.