What We Learned in Our Early-Intervention Parent Focus Groups
With today’s unique challenges (like social media and vaping), parents are confused about how worried they should be about kids using drugs or alcohol. Here’s what they said.
Last night I tried to teach my mom (love you!) how to download a song onto her iPod. It was a nightmare. Not just because I had to explain the concept of an iPod (and of downloading at least music she understood), but also because of her fear and self-doubt that came along with it. Because I am a professional blogger, I teach people and companies about the Internet, technology and social networking all the time. I have come to realize that sometimes grown-ups are virtual kids and kids are virtual grown-ups!
Why I Think Adults are Virtually Immature and Kids are Virtually Grown-Up:
1) Learning to use a social network, such as Facebook, is like learning to ride a bike. If you learn it as a child, you are fearless, you try everything, it comes naturally and you have time to practice. But if you learn as an adult (I am still trying to learn how to ride a bike, so I know), it is scary. You think about how much it would hurt to fall, you do not practice as much, you feel stupid, you cannot get the gist of it as fast, and even when you do get going, you still feel nervous. With social networking, kids go through the learning process early and some are virtually grown-up by age 12!
2) Adults often have more fears than kids. Sure, tweens and teens could probably afford to use more caution, especially when it comes to the web, but the part of their brains that would make them worry about consequences hasn’t fully developed yet. Meanwhile, many adults I teach are too afraid of everything technological pushing the wrong button, breaking something, or feeling dumb, stupid, or pathetic if they cannot get something right. Adults who are virtual kids have a lot of fear and kids who are virtual grown-ups are secure with their online selves.
I like to call adults who are virtually immature chi-dults. When some adults get online or learn certain things, they are learning as if they are kids to the world of the Internet. They want help, safety controls, and extra guidance, even though they are real grown-ups. That’s okay! If you are a chi-dult, remember that, like learning to ride a bike, learning to navigate the Internet takes a while. The most important thing as a parent is that you do learn, even if you feel silly during the process.
Why? Because online activities are an everyday part of your teens lives, and you can become disconnected from your kids if you refuse to get with the times. In fact, kids often feel more comfortable communicating with technology than face-to-face, so you may hear the words I love you or I need help if you let your child send them to you as a text or Facebook message. Plus, the more techno-savvy you are, the better you’ll be able to monitor your teens and tweens. If you know how to use Facebook, for example, you’ll be able to see if your kid has posted has a too-sexy photo or if shes being bullied via wall post.
Worth it, right? So, get online, take your time, build your confidence in websites you like, and talk to real teenagers and kids who know the ropes of the Internet. Most of all, be gentle with yourself being virtually grown up takes time.