Parents it is a whole new world out there!
The digital life that happens on your child’s phone, tablet or computer has a powerful presence. You need to be just as present in their digital world as they are.
I work with many teens that spend most of the time socializing in chat rooms or through apps. The only way to understand how that world works is to dive in. Sign-up and monitor! Sit down with your child and create a list of approved apps or games (which have chat rooms available) and place titles, usernames, and passwords for both parents to check in on.
Some parents / children view this as an invasion of privacy or a sign of not trusting their child / teen. Instead, I challenge you to view it being present.
The example that clicked with myself was that of a school environment. You do not go to their school and follow them around in all their interactions but you do attend parent night, parent-teacher meetings, at pick-up time you interact with other parents and watch how the children interact with your child / teen. You go to games, shows, fundraisers and / or band performances. You are a presence in their school life.
Ask them to show you the chat room or how to make an avatar.
Ask them about their avatar: forms, names, genders, and / or strengths. Many individuals create the person they hope to one day be in their avatar.
If they write on one of the story apps, such as, Wattpad. Go in to read their stories, print them if you think they would feel proud to know you wanted to keep them in the ‘real world’ or just email them letting them know you read it and what you thought. You know your child and how they need to be supported.
If you struggle with what to do to help your child out of the digital world it is okay to ask a therapist or school counselor for suggestions.
It is a new world that our children are growing up in. We have to meet them where they are inside the digital world to make sure they are safe.
Melinda C. Porter, LPC