Teens, pre-teens and post teens (adults) all have access to technology in unprecedented ways. In fact, as I write this article, my iPhone is in my lap and my iPad is calling for my attention to read a Facebook comment. Maybe a year from now my Apple watch will also be nagging me.
Access to this constant stream of information will continue to flow and how we interact with all this information is the only thing that will change.
When something is new to us, we usually fear it and try to contain or block it. I remember this starkly 18 years ago when the Internet came to my school in Saudi Arabia and I was advocating for students to have their own digital portfolios. The administrators were very worried that students would put up inappropriate content and they would be exposed to all sorts of evil doers. They chose to lock and block until they could figure it all out.
Fast forward 18 years and devices are omnipresent in schools and homes. Suddenly, and seemingly without warning, our children have figured out how to manipulate them at a pace adults can only envy. As a parent and technology coach, I talk with many parents who feel concerned, worried, stressed or even freaked out. They explain that their child is able to access all types of content on the Internet including images, videos and other people. Furthermore they do it out of sight and we have no idea what they are really looking at!
As expected, our first reaction is to head back to our root response: block it and lock it. But unlike 18 years ago, this method no longer works. Today our students and children are very savvy users of technology. They quickly, often with the help of YouTube and other social sharing sites, find their way around the blocks. Parents and teachers think students are blocked from the content, but they are not. Parents and teachers feel they have solved the problem; they have not.
Instead of block and lock, try a program called block and talk. Take time to physically stand between the device and your child and talk to them. Have conversations about what is appropriate and inappropriate. Set expectations and follow up. Be available for them if they have a problem or have encountered an inappropriate site.
We know students will make poor choices and mistakes on the Internet; it is up to us to be there for them. Guide them while they are still young enough to listen to us. If we don’t, our students and children will be left to find answers on their own.