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Time for the Kids to Become the Online Teachers

Change has always been the domain of the young. From the end of the Vietnam War to the Arab Spring, it’s not parents who are out there advocating change, it’s the youth. In the online world, it’s time to get kids, especially the web-savvy ones, to take a stronger role in their own safety and etiquette.

I attended the annual meeting for FOSi (Family Online Safety Institute) a few weeks ago and was gratified that instead of the decades of scare tactics about how much trouble kids can find on the internet, there was a commitment to good research and to working hand in hand with kids instead of trying to hand down ultimatums.

What Kids Know That Parents Don’t: For one thing, they know how much of a mess the Internet really is, and how ill-equipped their parents are to serve as guides. The research FOSi commissioned found that while 84% of parents felt they monitored their teen’s online behavior very closely, a much smaller percentage of teens (39%) actually felt as if they were being monitored closely. The same perception gap was reported when 91% of parents felt they knew about their teen’s activities, while teens reported that their parents were not particularly well informed. Parent’s biggest knowledge gaps were in social networking areas, especially with newer sites and topics like Pinterest, Instagram and mobile apps. Parents and teens both claimed to worry about identity theft, invasion of privacy and a blotted school record. Teens expressed concern that parents didn’t fully understand the ferocity of images that are posted without consent, and “regrettable” comments online.

A Platform for Good: Most of the research underscores that kids are a bit more in touch with the realities of connected living, and learning quickly how to show caution when necessary. That’s real evolution. One of the best things to come out of the sessions was the launch of Platform for Good, where parents, teachers and kids can band together to effect positive change in the world using online connections. In a nice sway from the predictable, the project features high school students that appear in small vignettes teaching parents about what goes on that they ought to know about. They use a little charm, a lot of humor and offer up good honest kid advice on subjects as wide ranging as: mobile apps, setting up mobile phone features, reputation, and gaming.

For parents who don’t know a Pintrest from a pint of milk, an hour on this site goes a long way towards a reality check.

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