In recent posts, I unearthed several products that enable parents to monitor their kids’ whereabouts via GPS trackers, as well as products that track their online activity. And the tracking doesn’t stop there. I also came across products like My Mobile Watchdog that monitors kids’ cell phone usage and even a device you can attach to your car called CarChip that collects information on driving speed, distance traveled, time/date and acceleration and braking habits.
After posting the article on the aforementioned GPS tracker, as well as one about a police chief in NJ who teaches classes on hacking into kids’ Facebook accounts, I was surprised that the majority of comments (and there were a lot!) were in favor of tracking and hacking. But where do you draw the line?
I spoke with Dr. Larry Rosen, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at California State University and author of Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn to get his expert opinion on this new generation of parenting.
Is this level of parenting necessary in the 2.0 world or is it just helicopter parenting to the extreme?
I am adamantly opposed to any form of technological monitoring except in extreme cases and as a last resort after all other efforts have failed. I believe in a model of parenting I call the T.A.L.K. model which stands for Trust, Assess, Learn and “K”ommunicate. In this model, parents create a sense of trust with their children by co-viewing their technology, which means that they establish a way of monitoring (physically, not technologically) what their children are using and doing.
Can you explain this model in greater detail? How does it work?
Trust: Frequent parent-child meetings about what technology they are using and how they are using it are essential. These meetings should be kids talking, parents listening.
Assess: Parents need to keep track of what their kids are using in the home, in school and at their friends’ homes.
Learn: Parents need to keep up on the kinds of technology their kids are using and how they are using them.
Kommunicate: Frequent family dinners and meetings (both of which are tied to healthier family systems) are integral.
Are there any cases in which you think technological monitoring is a good idea? What if you suspect a child is being cyberbullied or is a cyberbully?
I think that if you have talked to your child and discussed cyberbullying and asked him/her to talk to you if it ever happens, are having continuing conversations at meals and other times about these types of issues, but are seeing behaviors that seem to indicate that something is wrong and your child won’t talk to you, then it might be time for monitoring. (Although the other strategies are better and should work.)
What are the three most important things parents should keep in mind once their kids start using the Internet?
Kids need to be monitored when they are young – most kids start using the Internet when they are 5 or 6.This means that parents need to place the computer in an area where they can stop by and watch what the child is doing all the time. Parents also need to make sure that there are only a limited number of websites the child can visit and have had discussions in advance (including consequences for other visitations). Finally, parents need to talk to their children often about what they are finding on the Internet and encourage them to tell the parent anything they find odd or confusing.
What can parents do to educate their children on the dangers of the Internet (without completely terrifying them)?
Talk, talk, talk. Make conversations about the Internet and dangers routine and nonthreatening. Make them discussions that happen at dinner, after dinner, in the car, wherever the parent and child are alone. Also, these discussions must be done in a calm, relaxed, nonjudgmental voice and the parent should talk less than one-third of the time, with the child encouraged to talk the rest of the time.
More of Dr. Rosen’s techniques and thoughts on parenting in this digital age can be found in his book, Me, MySpace, and I: Parenting the Net Generation.
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