How do we keep our children safe while still allowing them to participate in their digital world?
I believe the answer to keeping our children safe lies in education and awareness.
Our children are the technology natives – we are technology immigrants. They know more about technology than we do – and they are less afraid to learn than we are. There is a real danger in this – our children don’t have the background to understand that there are real dangers in the world, and that there are people out there who want to do them harm. It is our job to protect them, and to help them learn to protect themselves.
I see this is as quite similar to handing them the keys to the car. We would never allow them to drive the car without first teaching them the rules of the road, helping them obtain a license and telling them what we expect when they get behind the wheel. The problem is that parents are less aware of technology and its dangers than the children are, and find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to teaching our children the "rules of the road" for technology.
The truth is, however, that we already have the parenting skills to handle this. Technology has not brought any new dangers or sins into the world – just new ways to access them. Keeping pornography away from our children has always been an issue, long before the Internet. Protecting them from child predators has been a concern of parents long before online chat rooms and online gaming was popular – just ask John Walsh. Technology just provides a new avenue for our children to wander more easily into these dangers – and when parents are not aware, it becomes even easier for our children to find themselves exactly where we did not want them to be.
Technology is not to be avoided – it blesses our lives and provides great miracles for us. Personally, I believe that if we shield our children from technology we do them a dis-service – they need to know how to make the best use of technology to thrive in the world today.
So, we have to find the balance between allowing them use of technology, and the enjoyment that comes along with playing online games, socializing with online friends, and making new ones – and responsibly using technology without becoming so enthralled with it that they lose their attraction to the “real world”, or get sucked into dangerous situations.
It is about parenting in this new, digital world. Communication with our children, understanding what they are doing – both online and in the physical world – is the best defense. And, being aware of what technological dangers exist and how we can prevent them is just as important. And that is what this blog, and my book “Cyber Safety: Maintaining Morality in a Digital World”, is all about.