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In Parents and Digital Technology: How to raise the connected generation, Suzie Hayman and John Coleman provide a guide for parents who are struggling to keep up with their children's use of technology and social media. Many parents feel that they do not have the skills necessary to understand what their children are doing online, and many are worried that their children's use of digital technology not only supersedes their own, but that their children are on their phones, tablets and computers too much, as well as that their children may not be safe when using digital technology. Therefore, Hayman and Coleman are providing parents with examples of both the possibilities and challenges of digital use.
First the authors discuss parental worries, such as pornography, violence, online bullying and social media taking over family life. The authors also note that too much screen time can be detrimental, and lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Then the authors discuss what they name the "actual threats of the digital world", adding to the parental worries with discussions about sexting, revenge poor and harmful content that promotes destructive behavior such as self-harming and promoting eating disorders. At the same time, the authors note that there are many opportunities of the digital world, such as keeping in contact with family members, learning to be critical, educational opportunities and creative learning.
The authors then discuss child development from the early years to adolescence, and discuss how much screen time a young child versus a teenager should be allowed to have and what types of interactions they can have. Then the authors discuss the importance of communication in the homes, and of spending time together as a family, turning off all devices and taking their children outside. The authors also note that parents need to be role models for their children. If parents are always on their phones and computers, or checking emails and social media, then they are modeling the same behavior for their children. Therefore, it is important for parents to address their own digital use, to focus their attention on their family and to limit screen time and to spend time together.
The authors provide valuable information for parents when it comes to addressing their children's use of digital media, as well as their own, and for parents, who often use much digital media themselves, to focus on their families and limit screen time for both young children and adolescence. It would have been interesting if the authors discussed parental use of digital media when it comes to their own families. It is very common for parents to add photos of their children to their social media sites or profiles, and to write about their children online. Sometimes such information can be very private. As much as parents want to share their family life with others, the information and pictures that they share of their child/children in one sense encroaches on their child/children's privacy as well. If parents do not wish for their children too share too much information online, or to post pictures of themselves that parents may deem inappropriate, parents should also think twice before sharing too much information of their children, or even pictures of their children. If we share pictures of our children online, but do not consider the impact that those pictures can have on our children, or even ask for their consent when posting such pictures, we are in one sense invading our children's privacy, sharing their personal information, while inadvertently expressing to our children that it is appropriate to share most information with others online. Therefore, it is important that parents discuss the sharing of pictures and private information with their children, in the hopes that their children will think twice before posting revealing information about themselves or others. It also seems appropriate that the same rules should be applied to parents of children, that they should think twice before sharing information about their own children.
© 2016 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.