Driving and Navigating in a Digital Era

When a child turns 16 , according to most state laws, they are ready to learn to drive. We, parents and adults, prepare them. We help them study for the permit test and practice with them and give them guidance on what the test will be like. They often will take sample tests before the real test. They may pass and receive their permit the first time, or may require a bit more time to make sure the knowledge is truly learned.

But let me back up to the years before that magical age. When they were little, they watched how you put on your seat belt, then they were eventually able to put on their seat belt. Children watch how we put the windows up and down and how the doors lock and how the windshield wipers are turned on and off. They study the radio and the steering wheel and the gear shift. They know that you need to turn on the lights at night and the heat in the winter. They surely know what the radio, cd player and possibly the DVD player in the backseat do.

So when they are legally able to drive, you aren’t starting at the beginning with them. You don’t have to teach them to open the door, sit down and start the vehicle. They have been learning from you for years.

Once they pass their test, you ride with them, teach them how to merge, yield and understand who goes first at a four way stop sign. You ride with them for many months until you are sure they are ready to take the driving test and then be on their own.

Once you give them the keys for the first time, you have probably already given them a list of expectations. Be home by dark, no friends in the car, no speeding. And absolutely no texting and driving. You teach your child to be a mature on the highway with the goal of creating responsible and safe driver. You love your child and you want them to be safe and make good decisions on the highway. You may have told your child that it’s not them you worry about, but the irresponsibility of other drivers. You do this because you know the dangers of the highway. You teach them how to drive because you know how to drive.

As your child grows up, and at a much younger age, there is good chance they will ask you for an iPod , tablet, or smartphone. And there will come a time that you will feel it’s reasonable to give your child some sort of digital device. It is just as much a “coming of age” ritual as getting a drivers license for the younger generations.

Your child has watched and practiced on digital devices at school and with friends or family. They have observed and know what they do and how they work. They will quickly learn how to navigate the web.
Now a few questions.

Did you spent time talking to them about expectations before you buy the device?
Did you spend time with them once they have the device teaching them how to safely and responsibly use it?
Do you know how it works as well as they do?
Do you know the world of social media, communication and photo sharing apps?
Do you know the irresponsibility of some users that your child may encounter?
Do you know how to teach your child to navigate through digital connectivity?


Digital Knowledge vs. Wisdom

“Let’s take a moment to examine the concepts of knowledge and wisdom and how they relate to social media. Some people may combine knowledge and wisdom in the same category. While they are closely connected and work well together when used symbiotically, there are distinct differences.   Knowledge is gained daily through assignments, tasks, and activities…think of it as “book smarts”. Wisdom is built over time and through observation and experience. Knowledge is something you can direct via your educational, occupational and interests path. Wisdom is the summation of the experience that provides guidance for what you do with knowledge… think of Wisdom as life experience or “street smarts”.

Children are born learners. They naturally want to discover the world and all it has to offer. They go to school to gain knowledge. As they grow we adults help sculpt their wisdom. We teach and model right from wrong and how to interact in the world successfully. We help them understand behaviors and consequences. We allow them to stumble and learn from mistakes. From the day they are born, our goal for our children is to have them accumulate a knowledge bank and then be able to use wisdom to judge how to most successfully use that knowledge.

In order to foster wisdom, in any area of our children’s lives, we need to be able to assess, redirect and guide our child’s choices as a result of their knowledge. In order to do this we must have the knowledge ourselves of each individual area to understand how to shape their wisdom.

Our children go to school and spend time with friends. They gain knowledge about technology because it’s part of today’s society. They gather this knowledge quickly and at an early age. They will rapidly outpace parents and teachers with knowledge of the technology through everyday use. Yet as a result of the lack of brain maturing until the age of twenty five, they do not have fully developed wisdom related to cause and effect of what they post on social media.

As adults we have gathered a lifetime of wisdom. We have learned from our mistakes and developed an ability to make good decisions. But we, as adults, have not kept up gaining knowledge related to technology and social media. This can cause us to struggle with imparting wisdom to our children and their online activities. It’s important for us to continue to gather knowledge about social media and technology. How can children be expected to gather wisdom from us when we don’t know anything about the subject?

One teen gave me feedback a few years ago about adults teaching teens about technology. They simply stated “first learn how to use it.” Good Advice. I think.

~ Ryan”

How to Lock Down Your Facebook Account

“I often get asked about privacy settings on Facebook. I tell people to regularly check their settings and adjust them as needed. Sometimes people tell me they are unsure how to adjust them and seem hesitant with their ability. Here are a couple links that will help you navigate adjusting your privacy settings. ~ Ryan”

Public Shaming

“Public shaming of children by adults happens and often by adults in positions of authority. I have seen it personally. When I see a post on my Facebook feed it’s called “public shaming”, and it’s design is to teach the child a lesson. But I wonder why we aren’t using different terminology and calling it what I believe it is, public bullying. I saw this most recent article about Izabel Laxamana, a 13 year old girl in Tacoma Washington who recently completed suicide days after being “publicly shamed” by her father. I’m not going to speculate on what led to her suicide, because I do not know the entire situation and don’t have all of the facts. But I will say that I believe that attempting to teach a lesson by making a video of you child or posting a picture on social media of a child holding an apology sign is not the best way to promote growth and responsibility. ~ Ryan”

A Teenager’s View on Social Media

“In my role I have to interpret teen behavior related to social media and present it to an audience. But I really enjoy listening to teens discuss social media from their perspective. Here is an excellent blog post from a college aged teen articulating teen views on social media. ~ Ryan”

Setting Expectations

Two Minutes Wiser – Take This Lollipop

“This site was brought to me by a 12 year old boy who is a friend of the family. He and his family know about my work and they help out when they see something I could use for educating parents, professionals and youth. I have used this site for several years working with parents and students. Basically it is a two minute video that pulls you in as an interactive participant using your Facebook data. It will ask you to log in using your Facebook username and password so the application can access your Facebook content. It will then show you a video of someone creeping on your Facebook page. I have had students tell me that they have tightened up their Facebook privacy settings just because they saw this video. I tell parents all the time that it’s a simple and youth appealing way to teach them about privacy on Facebook. ~ Ryan”

Anonymous Isn’t Synonymous With Ominous

“This is one of my favorite titles from an excellent technology journalist Larry Magid. When I present, I discuss apps that allow the user to post anonymously. While there is obvious concern for bullying and other inappropriate use, there are other concepts to consider. Larry does a wonderful job of discussing these points in this article and also brings in the experts from the Cyberbulllying Research Center in for comment. ~ Ryan”

Chances Are, Your Teen Has Not Sexted

“I want to point you to a calming blog post by one of the founders of the Cyberbulling Research Center Dr. Justin Patchin. I truly admire their work and often use them as a grounding point when frightening stories are reported in the media sending parents into panic mode. Check out this post to help relieve your fear that all teenagers sext. After you read this, I hope you will have a restored faith about most teens using technology responsibly. -Ryan”

+ Chances Are, Your Teen Has Not Sexted