How digital natives navigate parenting in the internet age
Parents of all ages are often concerned about the safety of their children. Many teach children from an early age about the “danger of strangers” and the importance of wearing seat belts and helmets.
While these types of warnings have helped children stay safe in the real world for decades, the 21st century has brought new challenges for parents raising their children in an ever-changing digital world. Now that some of the older digital natives (often dubbed Gen Z) are becoming parents themselves, many are looking for ways to control how digital media can and will impact their children.
With recent studies linking media consumption to a growing number of real-world issues, it’s no surprise that some parents wish the internet didn’t exist – or at least that they had better control over how which their children use it.
According to a report by Common Sense Media, teens spend more than nine hours a day consuming digital media, nearly 30% of which is spent on social media. A JAMA Psychiatry study found that teens who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more likely to develop mental health issues such as depression, aggression, and anxiety.
A 2018 federal report on human trafficking documented that the internet was the dominant business model used to attract victims of sex trafficking.
Online programs such as Zoom and Google Hangouts have become a mainstream vernacular during the pandemic. Young children, students and adults have been subjected to remote assistance for classes, meetings and even religious services.
This increase in screen time has caused many parents and families to reflect on their own use and behavior of digital media.
Browse social media and privacy
A BYU graduate and mother of four, Stephanie McNairy started a personal blog 13 years ago, like many others she knew at the time. McNairy didn’t grow up as a digital native, but the technology has been around all the time she was a parent. Historically, McNairy did not use her children’s first names in her blog posts to maintain some privacy, but her stance on privacy has changed over time.
“Today I’m less concerned about privacy because if you really want to know where I live, it can easily be found online,” McNairy said.
McNairy is not alone in her assessment. Almost 91% of adults “agree” or “strongly agree” that digital users have “lost control over how personal information is collected and used by businesses,” according to a Pew study Research Center.
McNairy teaches students online, which has forced her to strike a balance between her professional interests and her social interests of not sharing too much.
“Got drunk emails” in the middle of the night from college students, and that’s part of the reason I don’t share a lot of personal stuff online, but I still want an online presence. for other jobs that I pursue, ”McNairy said.
McNairy, whose oldest is 14, said she can understand why some parents who identify as digital natives would share life updates on social media.
“They might be more interested in using social media as an updating tool because it has always been a part of their teenage and adult life when it was only part of my life. adult after having started having children. “
Due to this age gap, McNairy is not inclined to share life updates on social media.
“I send photos privately to my family members,” McNairy said. “I don’t see my social media accounts as a place for family to find my updates. My family and in-laws live far away and we text or FaceTime to say hello on birthdays.
Savannah Riley, mother of two and owner of a small business, grew up in the digital age but still shared similar feelings to McNairy. Recent online articles have prevented her from sharing photos of her children online.
“I don’t feel very comfortable sharing a lot of photos of my kids online,” Riley said. “I used to share more, but read a bit too many articles about photos of children used for obnoxious purposes. I only share every now and then now, and sometimes I end up deleting them later anyway. “
Riley no longer posts photos of her children’s faces on public pages, but remains active on her work account which she uses to link. “I keep it separate from what I do as a mom, but I also share a bit of myself and explain to my kids what I do when I take and post pictures of what I’m doing”, she says. .
Jessica Mulder is a BYU-Idaho graduate, a stay-at-home mom and digital native with lots of family in different states. She said that with some security measures in place, she was comfortable posting on social media.
“I usually share photos and life updates via Facebook. With my parents and siblings, I will share photos and videos via SMS channel. With my husband’s family, we are just sharing photos and updates on Facebook. ”
Mulder feels comfortable with Facebook. “I’m very comfortable because I’ve put security measures in place, like adding only people I know, blocking certain people, and changing privacy settings,” Mulder said. “I care about the safety of my family, and the internet can be full of people who might try to take these photos and use them inappropriately or take advantage of my family.”
While older digital natives have found various ways to stay connected using media while protecting their families and children, many are still looking for ways to stay safe as online tools change.
Other ways to stay safe
New apps have become common ways to stay connected for families who don’t want to use public social media. Applications such as Marco Polo and Google Photos allow sharing of photos with private and specific audiences. These are popular alternatives for people who don’t feel safe on public social media accounts.
These apps have seen their use increase as the pandemic has separated many families over the past year. At the start of the pandemic, Marco Polo saw a 1,147% increase in new registrations. Marco Polo allows users to connect in a walkie-talkie style of communication. A person sends a video message and the message is recorded and can be answered whenever the respondent wants to respond. The message can only be viewed by those to whom it is sent.
Similar to Marco Polo, Apple iCloud Photo Sharing allows users to create shared albums with families and allows anyone to comment on photos and videos at their convenience.
Even with these new technologies, many people still prefer traditional forms of communication like phone calls to stay in touch with loved ones.
BYU student Lauren Hutchings has younger siblings in four different states. “I would just say that my advice is to make an effort to communicate with others in any way,” Hutchings said. “Phone calls keep me in touch with my brothers. They are awful at texting, but they really love it when I take the time to call them. I think they like it mostly because I’m so far away.
Riley said she uses a variety of means to stay in touch with family and friends who live further afield. After moving to a new state during the pandemic, she found creative ways to stay connected without posting on social media. For example, Riley has designed photo books and printed bundles of photos that she sends in the mail.
“We have a few group texts, one with my immediate family and one with my husband, then a few small group texts with just our parents, and I send a few pictures to the larger group, then not just to our parents,” said Riley. “Children face their grandparents quite regularly and their cousins from time to time, about once a month.”
Riley said there are still ways to connect securely without having to post photos on social media. “It’s pretty easy to take a picture and just text it to the family. When we have a family adventure day where I take a lot of photos, I select the best ones and send them to the parents at the end of the day, ”said Riley.
Riley still uses social media to update distant family members, but she doesn’t share photos of her children’s faces. She will sometimes post pictures of their backs or just their feet in a photo on public social media.