Parenting in the Digital Age: Why Your Kids Still Need You

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Parenting in the digital age can be an overwhelming task. How do we keep up? How much should we be involved? What’s appropriate and safe? What the heck is this new app? Why do they do that? When do we back off?

Recently a parent asked me, “I have a child who will be going off to college soon – is now the time to back off and let the chips fall as they may when it comes to their activities online?” My answer: HELLLLLL NO.

I actually don’t think that high school and college students are given the attention they deserve when it comes to social media and their choices online. Many parents and administrators I come into contact with take the, “They’re so far in, hard to reach” approach, which I think is such a disservice in this stage of the game. This is PRIME TIME for these kids, and their social media presence is more active (and visible) than ever. Plus, take advantage of the fact that they’re so passionate and excited about technology and social media – diving in with them, helping them navigate, pushing them towards the good stuff (which there’s plenty of).

Houston Texan J.J. Watt (who serves as a fantastic example of how to make social media work for you) recently said in this great interview with Sports Illustrated, “Used in the right way, social media can be used unbelievably.” While their constant Instagram posts may be aggravating and perplexing to you, imagine it one day helping them land a job, or get into school? The power of a positive online reputation is indisputable, and is something that many colleges and companies are factoring into their admissions/hiring decisions. As I tell the high school and college students I speak with: Use the heck out of this awesome tool known as social media, making it work for you – not against you.

Now the flip side, and three more pieces of evidence that your digital-native high school and college students are not beyond your guidance:

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Imagine? Imagine a Tweet or post being the ONE thing that crushes EVERYTHING they – and you – worked so hard and long for? In parenting, there aren’t many guarantees except for this one: Your kids will definitely make mistakes – didn’t we all? In fact, my most visible mistakes were made in high school and college – I was just lucky my mistakes were made before everything was chronicled online. This generation does not have that luxury, so it’s up to us to help them out, and guide them as things inevitably come up.

As technology progresses, the faster it gets, and the less time we all have to stop and critically think about the impact our texts, posts, and pictures will have down the line. Here’s the reality: grown adults sometimes need reminders of how to act appropriately online (we all know one!), never mind these teens and young adults who are still in the early stages of building their reputations. With so much of these pivotal years of their lives spent on social media, your involvement, encouragement, guidance and artfully crafted, occasional – ahem – reminders couldn’t be more essential.

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