Parental Abdication and The Digital Driver’s Key
In the past two years, I have presented to over 88,000 students on the topic of internet and social media safety and maintaining a good digital citizenship. Our presentation has become very popular and, although youth education is important, so too is parental education specific to this subject area.
You would think that given the importance of this topic, that our parent presentations would be jammed packed, but sadly, they really are not. Anecdotally, on average, it is not uncommon to see less than 10% of parents of a school’s total student population attend our parent’s presentation. Ask any principal or PAC president, getting parents to attend education nights, no matter what the topic, and no matter how well advertised, is always a challenge. I have heard all the reasons for “why” parents are not attending, which have included:
“I know the information already.”
“I have other commitments that night.”
“I have been working all day and I was just too tired.”
“There was a playoff game that night on T.V. that –insert their team- was playing in that I couldn’t miss.”
“I don’t ever let my kids go on the internet, so they will be fine.”
“My child doesn’t go onto Facebook or Instagram.”
“It’s the school’s responsibility to educate my child about this topic, not mine.”
It is the last point that has spawned this posting. I have found that too many parents abdicate their responsibility, specific to internet and social media safety and exhibiting good digital citizenship, to their child’s school. This, in my opinion, is absolutely wrong and something that I call being “willfully blind.”
Here’s the reality in my opinion, if parents provide the digital technology, then it becomes their responsibility to provide both the training and parental oversight to ensure that our kids use it responsibly. Given that I am currently a full-time law enforcement officer and a parent, I like to depict the analogy of driving: before we give the keys of our car to our kids, there is a process that most parents follow that usually includes:
Hands-on training, and then
Behaviour hands-on road testing
If our child is successful in both academic and behavioral driver testing, then here in British Columbia they move into a “graduated” licensing process, where there is still monitoring for one year before they are tested one more time. If your child passes this last testing, then they are awarded their license usually without restrictions.
When we provide our children with digital technology, such as a Smartphone or laptop, like it or not, we are providing them with the keys to a digital information highway, and just like a real highway, without driver education, training, and overwatch, serious accidents are more likely to happen.
Before parents provide digital technology to their children, they need to first educate themselves about both the desirable and less than desirable outcomes that come with providing this technology, and then pass this information onto their children in combination with parental oversight and rules. I would urge the reader to understand that this is not happening to a large extent, and it is without-a-doubt the weakest link in the online protection process. Parents need to step up to the plate on this issue and start parenting because we are the primary foundation when it comes to the online (and offline) safety and security of our children. This starts with educating ourselves about this very important topic area, and it is not as hard as you think. Do schools have a part to play in this protection/education process? YES, but their roll is tertiary, and parents need to stop placing so much responsibility and blame on their child’s school when it comes to failing to educate on how to drive and navigate the internet and social media information highway, when we are providing our children with the digital keys to operate the virtual car. The blame squarely falls on our shoulders, the parent, because we are the ones providing this powerful technology to our children without self-knowledge, education, training, and parental oversight on how to use it responsibly. As a result, schools are now left with the responsibility of supervising and policing these digital keys, even though the student has never received any kind of “ digital driver training” from the parent first.
Parental knowledge, and the understanding and application of that knowledge, is power and the keystone specific to topic!
Digital Food For Thought