How to Become a Tech Savvy Parent/Educator

This post is an excerpt from our Digital Citizenship Conference in Los Angeles. The conference was a rich environment for educators, law enforcement officers and parents to openly discuss issues and solutions for helping students shine in the digital world. All of the content from the Digital Citizenship Conference is available as a Virtual Replay Ticket.

Here are the experts who contributed to this blog:

Elizabeth Medina

Elizabeth Medina
Senior Strategist

Sarah Siegand

Sarah Siegand
Parent Who Fight

Alexandria Abramian

Alexandria Abramian
Content Director

Kirsten E. Hoyt, Ed.D.

Kirsten E. Hoyt, Ed.D.
Academic Dean
University of Phoenix

Lee Fox

Lee Fox
Founder & CEO

Mercedes Samudio

Mercedes Samudio
Parenting Coach
The Parenting Skill

Remember the “Tickle Me Elmo”, that “buzz toy” at Christmas? Now, it’s like Christmas everyday, everyday there’s a “buzz” app. How do you manage it? If you say no, kids can still download it. How would you help parents whose kid wants an app because everyone has it?

There are tons of third-party apps that prevent your kids from downloading anything without your permission. –Sarah Siegand, Parents Who Fight

Get your kid thinking about the potential negatives and potential positives of apps they want to engage in. –Elizabeth Medina

I think kids are smart, so if you engage them in conversation like, “How do you think this app could be used for good, how do you think it could be used for evil”, or simple questions like, “What did you see online this week that made you happy”, and “What did you see online this week that made you sad?”. And really get your own kid thinking deeply about the potential negative and the potential positives of things they want to engage in and want to be part of, I think that could preempt a lot of the problematic uses of some of the apps kids are using. –Elizabeth Medina, Google

What would you say to the Educators who are becoming digital stewards to this generation? What words of wisdom or tips do you have for us to go out and become the tech savvy stewards to kids who are digital natives?

As a kid, I was told, “Think before you speak”, and now I think the message would be more, “Think before you share”. Just making sure kids understand, what they say or do online can affect them and their friends offline. That sometimes a text is a little bit more permanent. They might want to think of it like a tattoo or like those semi-permanent tattoos kids get. Maybe if they say something that’s a little cruel, it could stick around for a little bit longer and it might be harder to repair that in a relationship. Just to emphasize how important it is to have good judgment because things that are put online can stay around for a while. Also, to emphasize it, more foresight is needed since there are platforms where more people can be reached and things can be shared more widely. –Elizabeth Medina, Google

Basic TV and radio provide certain constraints to the content that they release but social media and technology do not. –Alex Abramian

Kids feel like a big part of their life is going away when parents restrict apps on their phone. Getting involved late means dealing with the ramifications of children who have had unfettered access to technology. Basic TV and radio provide certain constraints to the content that they release but social media and technology do not. –Alex Abramian, Forcefield

You have to patiently work to see the results. –Sarah Siegand

I think when I was a kid there were parameters that I understood what was safe in my neighborhood. Those broaden as you grow and become more mature because your judgment becomes better. But when you become an adolescent, sometimes your judgment is impaired so you need to take those preteen years very seriously, big time. If we take the long view of it, it’s not always going to be conversations fixing problems each and every time but stewarding kids is making deposits, over time, when there’s not high emotions. You’ll know when you see the fruit of that work appearing, you have to just patiently work to see the results. –Sarah Siegand, Parents Who Fight

You need to be a lifelong learner. –Kirsten E. Hoyt

I’ve seen it with my own kids, it’s the things that you model. Because they won’t do what you tell them to do, they’ll do what they see you do. You just have to grow, and understand that we’ve actually always preached in education, this notion of lifelong learning, that you need to be a lifelong learner. With this tool we now have whether it’s your phone, your iPad or your computer, we truly have a way to enable that. I can learn to paint, I can learn to roller skate, I can learn the concepts of riding a motorcycle online, I can get that just-in-time learning because somebody’s probably created some video somewhere for me to do that or written an article. So, take the good, right? –Kirsten E. Hoyt, University of Phoenix

Educate your child on the concept of digital citizenship and digital empathy. –Lee Fox

The internet is no different than a neighborhood. There are parts of it that are great and safe and that’s where your kids should play and there are parts that are not safe. I think that some of it is also educating your child on the concept of digital citizenship and digital empathy. And what responsibilities we have when we go into different neighborhoods in the real world and parallel them with what happens to them in the online world because they are not actually as different as we like to think. –Lee Fox, PeerSpring

It’s really helpful to lower that barrier of: Where do I start? –Mercedes Samudio

There is also this idea of having to do too much as a parent. I think sometimes parents feel like they’re busy: “I got to make sure they eat, sleep, get their homework done, put their clothes on, don’t die, like I have to do all of this and I also have to figure out how to use this iPhone”. I’ve found that one of the things to do is to acknowledge that. Talk to parents. Let them know, “What is it that you like to know today?” Instead of saying, “Go educate yourself”, ask what they would like to know, today. They might say, “I don’t know how to put the parental controls on”, or, “My iPhone and iPads are great, but how do you do the parental controls for Netflix and Hulu?” A lot of times my parents don’t know how to deal with the game systems. Almost all the game consoles you can get online with now. They’re like, “How did my kid talk to someone in Istanbul on their Xbox?” Well, this how they did it, and then we’ll talk about it that way. So, I think for us as educators, it’s not enough to just say, “Hey, here’s some stuff. Go look at it”, but to say, “Hey, you know it sounds like you’re really stressed out. What do you want to know?” And then they’ll say, “I want to know about Netflix control”. I’ll give them that information, they’ll go fix it and come back and say, “Give me more”. That’s what I’ve noticed. It’s been really helpful to lower that barrier of: Where do I start? –Mercedes Samudio, The Parenting Skill

How do we teach our children how to develop empathy over text messages, emojis, and gifs? If I say to you, kidding, “I hate you”, we understand I’m kidding. But if I type it, it can easily be misunderstood. How do we help our kids develop emotionality, or empathy as they type things out?

People dedicate their lives to studying how to develop empathy. I am reading a good book called “Unselfie”, by Michele Borba. It’s about helping your kids develop empathy. I love how she talks about really helping kids name their emotions from a young age so you know what your kid is telling you when they say, “So and so hit me at recess”. You can ask, “Did you feel unsafe? Did that make you angry? Did it make you upset? Were you trying to defend somebody else?” Helping them understand their own emotions is a very offline thing. Hopefully, we can start using those building blocks and helping them to self-identify their emotions, that will be something that they will be able to use. –Sarah Siegand, Parents Who Fight

I think reinventing the conversation about the meaning of the word “friend” is huge and as parents, we model that for our kids. So, I tell my kids, the people who are in my friendfeed are actually my friends! These are people I know, people I want to talk to, people I want to hang out with. I do have a public persona where I can connect to strangers but I think that that friend conversation is really big because then, if you are helping their peer circle to be safer then they will feel like they can have those peer-to-peer accountabilities and jump in and help each other. And it’s not like, “Oh this dude in my math class who’s a total jerk, is my friend on Instagram and he is really mean”. Time to ask, “Why is he even in there?” Helping kids set boundaries. Boundaries are the bedrock of healthy relationships for your whole life and so teach them that from the very beginning, of what it really means to be a friend. –Sarah Siegand, Parents Who Fight

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