Young Girl on Phone
The Tech Savvy Parent Title Typography
Brian Housman author
When your kid knows more than you dp
“Check out my six pack,” my daughter said with a grin. I looked over at her slouched on the couch as she held up her thumbs. She went on, “I’ve been texting so much, I’ve developed three muscles in each thumb.” That’s when it hit me: she has reached the age where, from here on, she will always be one step ahead of me with technology. She will know what the newest apps are and how to use them before I do. She will know the newest texting lingo before I will. And she’ll adopt new social media tools before I’ve even heard of them. I’m not alone. I’m guessing, regardless of how tech savvy you are as a parent, your teen will always know more. It’s sobering, is it not?
Digital Reputations Last a Lifetime
The pace of life in our culture leaves little time for real world interaction. This generation of teenagers has largely exchanged face-to-face time with friends for screen time with acquaintances. They desire community, close friendships, and environments where they can “just be me,” but they attempt to find these things in social media apps such as YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram. Social media programs are built around the idea of connecting with others and self-expression, but it is difficult for many young users to draw the lines of what is healthy.

When we were young teenagers, if we wanted to flirt with someone, we would put a note in their locker or have a friend pass on a message. Today’s teens send sexually graphic text messages called sexts. Far from a fringe behavior, 39% of all teens say they have sent or posted a sexually suggestive message, and over 20% have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.

“Teenagers have grown accustomed to sharing all of their life online. Regardless whether the information they post is silly or sensitive, sappy or self-centered, all of it is part of a digital reputation they are creating.”
Teenagers have grown accustomed to sharing all of their life online. Regardless whether the information they post is silly or sensitive, sappy or self-centered, all of it is part of a digital reputation they are creating. Social networking has given colleges and prospective employers a bird’s-eye view into the life of your teen. Every person your teen has “friended,” group they have “liked,” and photo they have posted, is a permanent record of their digital life.

More than 70% of colleges now look at the Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube accounts of applicants to judge the quality of the student. When grading job applicants, 40% of Fortune 500 companies now scour social media sites.

It is hard for your teen to think four to eight years down the road to how his present online actions can affect his future. He doesn’t have the life experience yet to fully grasp the public forum the internet and social media create. Part of your job is to be a buffer for him—to help him see his online self from an outsider’s perspective. Have him ask the following questions before posting anything online:

Does this clearly communicate who I am?

Does this compromise my faith or moral standard?

Do I want this to always be associated with me?

Am I writing this just because I’m angry or hurt?

Would I want my future family to see this?

If your teenager is going to learn to use technology in a way that is honoring to themselves and those around them, then you must choose to engage in technology with them. Instead of perpetually being frustrated, become a learner. Ask your child to show you how to use the new phone you just bought. Ask your teenager to share one new social media buzzword with you that you didn’t know. Send them a text message with words of encouragement or praise instead of just checking in on when they will be home. When you take these sorts of steps, technology is working with you instead of against you.

I’ll never have a six pack in my thumbs, nor will I ever equal the amount of time my children are connected to technology. But with the time we do have together as a family, I can model for them how to use technology responsibly and set reasonable expectations for their own technology in order to help them build a strong digital reputation for tomorrow.

Brian Housman author

rian Housman has had the privilege of speaking at more than two hundred parenting conferences from coast to coast and internationally. He is the author of Tech Savvy Parenting and Engaging Your Teen’s World. Brian and his wife Mona have been married for twenty-one years and have two teenagers, Bailey and Ashlan. Get daily parenting tips from him on Twitter at @bwhousman.