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June 26, 2015

Raising Kids of the Digital Generation.

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As parents, we constantly come up against tough choices.

Some of those tough choices might manifest as how to choose between styles of schooling, dental or health care or from what I’m experiencing now: Separation.

My current business trip to Europe meant our five-year-old daughter stayed with her Grandparents while we were gone. The thought of leaving her behind left my husband and I in the throes of late night debates on parental strategizing and list making of the pros and cons of separating from our child. One idea we came up with was to use social media as a way to bring her with us.

We braved the anxiety and packed up our bags. While this would prove to be a difficult challenge, we knew we were living the very vivid reality of raising a digital generation. We’re facing a new crop of kids online who are younger than ever before, and I never thought I’d say this, but I’m ok with that.

Hear me out.

Even though there are very apparent risks of exposing our broods to a virtual world, it’s likely that this younger generation is largely using social media much earlier in life because of the easy access.

I know of many households who ban social media. When it comes to my own, I think that instead of denying what’s inevitable, I want to embrace these social media tools as a healthy means of communication and parenting. As parents seeking connection in our techno-culture, we can use it to reach out to our kids through a medium they’re engaging with anyway.

The modern, undeniable reality is that our youth are online. In fact, a surprising percent of kids by age ten will have their own Facebook page, even though the official minimum age is 13.

Is resisting it worthwhile? I might have personally resisted until I saw the amazing bonds happening with my four-year-old while we were overseas.

History shows us that each generation encounters new interfaces we either can spend energy denying, or embrace to integrate the inevitable.

For many kids influenced by school/peer exposure, even when a household is not online, likely someone they know is. With open dialogues on safety, appropriateness and etiquette, parenting this digital generation could enhance our bonding potential. Whether or not we accept it, social media is here to stay—so let’s consider embracing social media as a healthy tool of communication.

During my travels in Ireland and Scotland this past week, where we’re on opposite time schedules than my kid, we’ve had to come up with new ways of connecting with her for the next two weeks. To make this work, we’re combining my business’s social media and family adventures on Instagram by taking video’s she’s requested of us, and when she gets up in the morning she and her grandmother look through our day’s adventures—then she sends us another mission!

Each day we send Facebook posts for her where she’s scrolling through requested photos. It has worked so well that she’s even asked to stay longer with her Grandparents, suggesting more adventures for us to capture and post for her!

We’re facing a new generation of kids beginning life on social media, often starting with baby photos parents post and moving through to a quick advance of the child messaging and posting themselves later on.

As we’ve experienced during our trip here in Europe, this medium of connection is more intimate than I could have imagined. It is helping us to build memories in unique ways, and makes us all feel as if our family is together even when we’re thousands of miles apart.

Social media is here to stay. We use it in business, to raise funds, find missing cats, start groups and stay connected with the world. If the digital youth will be fluent in Facebook at such a young age, let’s teach them a healthy awareness of how to interact online.

Connecting could be a private page just for the family, or special tweet chats with your kid. If these platforms can be used for good with responsibility, sensitivity, intelligence and kindness, I’m convinced this increases our chance of forming connections (which seems to be a challenge for most busy households).

Do you use social media with your kids? I’d love to know how this has worked for you in the comments below.

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Sources:

The Daily Mail.

Facebook Help Forum.

WRAL.com

American Psychological Association.

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Author: Hayley Hobson

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Image: Wesley Fryer/Flickr

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