Knowing about and understanding the technology and social media capabilities available to your kids is something you just have to do as a dad.
You may think you are a cool dad.
Your whole life you lived on the edge with reckless indifference. You probably wore a leather jacket in elementary school. You don’t run after buses, you walk. You sometimes refrain from smiling in pictures. You wear sunglasses, even when you don’t need to. You drive with one hand, not two.
Regardless of how cool you think you are, there comes a day when it all flips and suddenly your kids are cooler than you, at least when it comes to the latest and greatest apps and technology. Talk to most parents and they can probably recall a time where they took what they believed to be the latest app to their kids only to find out that it was a big hit…last year.
While you may have to accept this inescapable reality and slink away in defeat, there is one area where you cannot concede social media.
As parents, it is extremely important to stay abreast of the ever-evolving virtual sandbox our kids play in daily. Social media is a major part of their lives and cannot be an overlooked component of good parenting.
The intent of this article is not to bore you with common social media tactics and best practices but rather to show you the value of engagement, awareness, and having an open relationship with your kids when it comes to technology.
As you may or may not know, a new app hit the market recently called Periscope. It’s a live streaming video service that allows someone to broadcast on the Internet while others watch and comment. It was purchased by Twitter and has gained a significant foothold in the online space.
Since I work in the information technology industry and do quite a bit of work with social media and online platform building, I was an early adopter of Periscope. Once I heard about it, I immediately started to play around with it to see what it could do.
Since I’m also a father, I immediately started to think about my daughters using it. Based on some of the despicable comments I witnessed from trolls using the service, typically insulting and coming onto women who were broadcasting, I felt it was important to talk to my daughters about it.
Part of me did not want to make them aware of the app’s existence because I didn’t want them to potentially experience what I witnessed. It would be much easier to bury my head in the sand and hope they didn’t know about it and never used it.
But I knew kids were very tech savvy and always knew what app was trending. I figured I had no choice. For all I knew, they were already broadcasting regularly. That was my fear and really what drove me to be proactive with the information that I had.
When I talked to my teen daughters about the app I explained what it was, how it was used, what made it so powerful, and the importance of apps like this in the grand scheme of the evolution of social media and online engagement.
I also explained the danger in the app and how it can be exploited. I let them know that people on the other end can, and most likely will, say some vile things. Their best response will be to ignore it and move on. I was surprised to find out that they had never heard of the app. Chalk one up for dad!
I also had the same talk with them about Meerkat, which is a competing service similar to Periscope. Again, I explained the service, how it can be used, and the associated things they should look out for. Of course technology continues to evolve, and I recently had to do it all over again with the emergence of Blab.im.
As a parent in today’s fast-paced world, you have to adjust how you look at technology.
First you have to stay aware and engaged. You need to stay up-to-date with the industry and understand what your kids might be doing. Watch the news. Listen and engage with other parents. Ask your kids! Don’t be ashamed that you have to ask your kids what apps they are using. If you approach them inquisitively, and without being judgmental, they will be much more likely to share what they know.
Secondly, you have to be proactive and take things to your kids. Don’t sit back and wait for them to ask you about it. Share with them what you have learned and talk about the app even if they have already used it. Don’t worry about them laughing at you or accusing you of being out of touch. They already do that. Get over it and engage with your kids. Foster an open relationship with them and talk truthfully about not only the possibilities of technology but also about the potential dangers.
Knowing about and understanding the technology and social media capabilities available to your kids is something you just have to do. The good news is, sometimes you are the first to hear about the latest app, and you get to gain back some of those long lost cool points.
Photo: Flickr/ Mark Hunter