As part of an on-going blog series that began three weeks ago, we have interviewed some internet safety experts, parenting experts and industry leaders and are pleased to present our findings. Our questions centered around 'digital parenting' and what people thought were the biggest issues regarding this subject.
Today we are featuring responses from our friend Tosin Williams, the founder of The Learning Period, an in-home tutoring service based in Los Angeles, CA.
uKnowKids: How has parenting changed with the introduction of so many digital devices?
Tosin Williams: It has and it hasn't. Ultimately, parenting is about being there in every way for your child to offer whatever support he may need, and caring for his safety. The new types of technology may make the parenting landscape look different, but the 'mission' remains constant. For one, parents need to be willing to stay on top of technology developments in order to know how things work, and the ways their kids will be using technology; it's about making the effort to stay educated. On the plus side, parents must be again be willing to stay educated, but on how they can give their kids a leg up. There are tons of educational apps to solidify concepts learned at school, schools offer parents alternate ways to keep track of their children's progress, and premium educational services (such as 'concierge tutoring') can be bought and accessed via the latest technological gadgets. Again, parenting may seem more difficult due to the vast amount of different tech gadgets, but this may be offset by online parenting communities and home/childcare apps and services.
uKK: How is childhood affected by the introduction of many digital devices?
Tosin Williams: This is the one area where I personally feel that technology is not all good. A child's entertainment options are largely digital, and social interaction, in my opinion, has taken a direct hit. Before, kids used to play outside for hours, plan play dates, have sleepovers, etc. While this hasn't completely ended, the more entertaining options for kids are playing video games and 'playing online.' This trend has led to a decline in having kids develop their own styles of conflict resolution, teamwork/team spirit, compassion, and conscientiousness, simply because their interaction in everyday situations, in contrast to virtual ones, has declined. On a slightly different note, one almost-universal part of childhood is dealing with bullying in some form. With cyberbullying, I feel kids have a more difficult time coping because of the virtual nature. For example, before now if someone called your child a name, your kid could address that one person and ask him to stop, or tell an adult, or what have you. Now, if someone calls him names, not only are more people going to know about it, there can be an anonymous aspect to the bully, and your child won't have a clear sense of how to address the problem. In addition to that, there is a permanence to what's posted on the internet, as opposed to back in the day when a coat of pain could cover over anything scribbled on a restroom wall.
uKK: What are the most dangerous issues online, in your opinion?
Tosin Williams: While this may be an unpopular answer, I feel the most dangerous issue is a lack of awareness on the part of the parent. Even in traditional education, which is totally removed from the current discussion, I often find that students with problem behavior have parents who are entirely unaware that anything is wrong at school. What's more, the parent is unaware that there's anything wrong at home, either. While there are definitely online predators, all parents should strive to ensure they know what their kid is up to, online or otherwise.