We’ve just celebrated Father’s Day, and I am a father of 3 great kids. Being a father in the digital age can be a challenge especially if you’re not into technology. With kids running around with iPhone’s and iPad’s posting pics on Instagram and Pintrest and updating their status on Twitter and Facebook it can be hard to keep up. We certainly can’t just give up and turn a blind eye to it all. That’d be easier. How do you keep up with “tweets”, “hashtags” and “likes” when you like your flip phone just fine, tweeting is something birds do and the only type of hash you like are hash browns? Well dad’s you’re going to have to start doing some homework. Yeah, I know. You thought you were done with homework. But you have to keep up. Technology moves fast and kids adopt it very quickly. The problems is that sometimes the technology can take your kids to places they shouldn’t be going and can introduce them to people they don’t need to meet or know. So you have to keep up.
Now I am pretty up on technology. I know a lot about iPhones and iPads. I train companies on how to use Social Media (ie Twitter, Facebook), but even with that knowledge I have to stay engaged with what my kids are doing in the digital world. How do I do this? I’m “friends” with my oldest daughter on Facebook (my other two kids aren’t old enough to have a Facebook account yet). I set up Internet filters on the kids iPhones and iPads and the home computer we also run X3 Watch (accountability software they lets us know if someone went to a website they shouldn’t have). I occasionally check out my kids’ Internet connected devices. I look at what pictures they have on them. I see what kind of Apps they’re using. I check their text messages. Some people say that’s an invasion of their privacy. I say that is a dad doing their job to protect their kids. Often kids can do things out of a lack of maturity, not out of malice. But if I don’t know it’s going on, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to talk to them about the dangers they could be walking into.
I had an opportunity to help my youngest daughter mature a bit just the other day. As I was checking her iPad I noticed she had downloaded Instagram. It’s a program that let you take pictures and share them with “Friends”. My daughter never asked me if she could use this App and as I looked at it I noticed she had over 280 “friends” she was sharing pictures of herself with. Now the pictures were just normal pictures of her being goofy and just smiling. But I know most her friends and I know she doesn’t have 280 of them. So I asked her “Do you know all these people?”. “No” she said. Then I tapped on a picture of her and it showed comments about it from her “friends”. “Who is the guy who commented on your picture?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she said. “Do you think it’s a good idea for strangers to be able to look at pictures of you and leave you comments” I asked. “No” she said. I went on to explain how strangers could start to engage in conversations with her and how that could lead to things that were unsafe. I told her there are bad people out there that like to go after young girls and it all can start with what seems like an innocent online chat. After I explained all this I have her delete her Instagram account. She wasn’t so upset about it because I talked her through it and she understood. It helped her mature.
That’s part of our job as dads; helping our kids mature. But if we’re not engaged with them and don’t know what’s going on in their world we won’t have those opportunities to help them mature. And if our kids don’t mature they’ll end up making bad choices. Again, not out of malice necessarily but out of a lack of knowledge. Dad’s we have a challenging job so man up and jump into the digital age with your kids. They’ll be glad you did.