Our Digital Natives

Our children today are the first to grow up in a digital world. This generation has access to technology that their parents never even dreamed of when they were growing up. Social media in life is the norm. However, with that access also comes additional risk. We’ve often shared Cheezo resources in the past and had them at our Safety Event to talk to parents and children. Parents, please take the time to read through the information they provide.


Because I recently attended a convention where I listened to a mother talk about the cyberbullying and suicide of her daughter, I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject and how we can work together to support our children, who are the digital natives.

The following is an article shared by one of our middle schools as a parent resource. Please read and consider the issues.


By Rebecca Felsenthal Stewart WebMD Feature

Whether or not you’re tweeting or sharing your daily thoughts on Facebook, you have to acknowledge it. Interacting with friends online is a fact of life for your children.

“These connections are really integral to the social lives of today’s kids,” says Caroline Knorr, parenting editor for Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that helps families navigate the world of media and technology.

Besides the benefits, there are also risks. That’s where you come in.

“It’s a parent’s responsibility to parent around the technology”, says Shawn Marie Edgington, author of The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media.

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all require children to be at least 13 years old to join. That’s because of the “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act,” which limits companies from collecting personal information about kids under 13. ” Some kids younger than 13 dodge those age limits by faking their birth date and setting up an account, whether their parents know it or not.

“Parents need to ask their children on a regular basis, ‘Do you have a Facebook account? Do your friends?'” Edgington says. She recommends that when you buy your child a cell phone, one of the conditions is that she can’t get a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account until age 13 and you approve it.

If you’re tempted to make an exception for them, you might want to consider the message you’re sending if you allow them to break the rules by lying, about whether they’re mature enough to behave safely and responsibly, and about what you will do to monitor their activity (such as “friending” them).

Once your child is of age and has your permission, sit down together to set up the account. Use all the privacy restrictions available and don’t give unnecessary information like cell phone numbers, Knorr says. This is also a good time to talk about what not to post, such as your home address, your child’s location, and any inappropriate pictures (including those that have “geotagging” that gives away the child’s location.)

Instruct her never to “friend” anyone she doesn’t know, and never to share her password, Edgington says. Tell her that she can come to you if anything happens online that makes her uncomfortable. Write a contract for your child about how they behave on social media.

Outline consequences: “If you take away a 16-year-old’s cell phone, it’s worse than taking away his car,” Edgington says. Remind your child that social rules apply online, Knorr says. Explain that it comes down to how she wants to portray herself to the world, and that once something is online, it’s hard to make it go away. “Everything your child posts is about his image and brand because it’s going to be there forever,” Edgington says. Colleges and employers check social networking sites and do Google searches on applicants.

Though the concept of long-term consequences may not click with your child right away, keep reinforcing it.


A couple more thoughts, if your child is on social media, not only should you be a “friend” to their accounts, you may want to ask a few other trusted friends to also “friend” or follow your child’s accounts. It does take a village and I know my friends will be watching out for my child online as I do the same for their children.

Having conversations about tone and comments on the pages/profiles/accounts of friends is also important. Cyberbullying continues to be a problem but it can be slowed and even stopped if we join together to teach our children what’s okay and what’s not.

Finally, looking at your child’s personal account by logging directly into their account or on their personal device from time to time is a good thing. It feels odd and sometimes they don’t like it, but as they explore this digital world, they are still children who need our help and guidance. There are private groups, secret groups, and public groups on social media that you can’t see without being logged into the specific account. Checking texts from time to time, talking about how they’ve been treated by and how they treat others while online, and ensuring that nothing will be posted that could follow them into adulthood is a new responsibility for parents today.

As parents, we  need to know how these applications work and what’s going on online. We are all constantly learning in this digital world. Your child can enjoy showing their expertise while teaching you about applications while you teach your child how best to use them.