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Supporting Kids’ Friendships in the Digital Age

I just had a chance to have a conversation with Annie Fox, M.Ed, the host of Family Confidential: Secrets of Successful Parenting. I’ve been a fan of Annie’s parenting expertise and youth mentoring for many years, so I was honored to be invited to be a guest on her podcast.

Highlights: What Makes a Good Friend?

Annie and I spoke about how you can use social media as a locus for talking with your kids about friendships, what makes a good friend and how to deal with conflict and change in relationships.

I shared one of the ways I work with students in my student workshops: helping kids define “what makes a good friend to play online games with, or hang out on social media with?”

And how can parents help their kids be good friends in these interactive spaces?

How can we help our kids have high enough expectations of their peers?

We don’t want our kids to tolerate mean or thoughtless treatment as a matter of course…

Here’s the video (below). Just press the play button to view.
Some of the highlights: Find Clarity Through Boundaries

We talked about how helping your child identify positive boundaries is important.

  • When she has friends over, it is OK to expect the friend to hang out with you and not spend the whole time on the phone!
  • Another important boundary that we can help our kids express to their friends is that they can’t be available 24/7. Kids need to know that they are not being rude if they don’t respond to a status update or text when they are supposed to be sleeping or doing homework.
  • Or, as Annie pointed out, when they are out on their bike and prefer to ignore the buzz in their back pocket.

Digital Citizenship, Helping Kids Define Boundaries

Finally, we discussed the perennial question: How do I know my child is ready for a cellphone.

Hint: It is not a certain birthday… Their skills, responsibility and need for independence (for example to travel around the community on their own) are the most relevant criteria.

It was so much fun talking with Annie. If you are on a roll an want to see all my podcast appearances ever, you can check them out here.

Please let me know your thoughts on these approaches to nurturing our kids social skills or share additional questions you’d like me to cover in a future podcast in the comments.

EdTech & Digital Citizenship expert, Marti Weston reviews our Connecting Wisely Curriculum

In the last few years, since founding Raising Digital Natives, I’ve been working with parents, teachers and students at schools around the country. I was asked to work with a large group of students a few years ago, and I called in a trusted colleague, Karen Jacobson, a school counselor with lots of great experience counseling kids around digital age challenges with peers to collaborate.

After the workshop, we discussed the preponderance of curricula available to educators that focus on Internet Safety, but don’t delve into the identify-focused, friendship-focused territory that we are especially interested. What is the difference between cyber-bullying and just plain mean behavior? How should kids deal with witnessing their own exclusion in social media? How can kids repair when they make mistakes? How can they avoid conflicts when texting? We  decided that we should write a curriculum to share our ideas and exercises that focus on the social/emotional side of growing up in the digital world. Youthlight Press released our curriculum this spring! We’ll be speaking about it at a couple of upcoming conferences. My favorite thing to do with the curriculum is visit a school, lead the students in some of the lessons with counselors, advisors or other mentors sitting in, and then make a plan with those mentors for the work to continue.

We are delighted that Marti Weston, an expert in educational technology integration and digital citizenship has reviewed our curriculum in her blog Media, Tech, Parenting! 

Weston writes: “With its flexibility and its focus on adults as connected world coaches and mentors (not lecturers), Connecting Wisely stands head and shoulders above many other curricula in this category.”

As an experienced educator, Weston makes a case for our curriculum to be integrated into curriculum, as opposed to being taught separately. This is exactly our intention with the curriculum. These values and ideas can be woven into both school and extra-curricular activities and should not be segregated into an “Internet Safety” or “Digital Citizenship” silo.

Weston concludes: “If a goal is to make it clear to today’s digital natives that we expect them to carry out positive and respectful values wherever they work and play, we need to take the time to develop a strategy that reinforces those values everywhere they work and play. Connecting Wisely in the Digital Age is a book and a tool to help us get started.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Kids Don’t Understand Privacy Anymore”

A common refrain that I hear from parents that today’s kids “have no regard for privacy!” Their evidence? A teenager’s “rant” on Facebook. An inappropriate divulgence via Twitter. A photo that would be better deleted than shared.

I still remember walking home from 7th grade when a friend said she hated her parents. I had never dared to think something like that, let alone say it aloud. I rolled it around in my head. As I got to know her, I realized she had good reason to be deeply angry with her folks. But communicating her truth to me was private and profound. Now consider the same message, but this time, conveyed via social media. “I hate my parents” could easily be taken as light-hearted or a joke—or it could be much more serious than that.

The fact is that these two “social spaces” are vastly different. The issue is not that kids don’t have a sense of privacy, but instead a lack of understanding about how to manage each one of these terrains. Teaching kids how to manage these distinctions is tricky.

All of this centers around a strong set of values—which parents and other mentors, can model for kids. The new world of social media does mean we all get to ignore our values, but it does require us to help young people navigate how their ideas get filtered and shared through these new means of communication. For instance, you have a sense of when it’s OK to resolve an issue via e-mail, but you also understand when it’s best to have a face-to-face discussion. The issue for kids is no different at its core—it’s just the medium that’s different. The challenge for you lies in the nuances of each communication mechanism, be it Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Stick to your core values. It is OK to emphasize things such as loyalty, but show your kids the difference between the the ways we communicate.

Take for example a situation where you are angry with a friend. You need to vent. You call another friend of yours and do just that. You unload all the details. You feel better. Yes, there’s a risk in this—the “venting” conversation might get back to the first friend. But imagine how different that would be if you instead vented about your friend on your blog or Tumblr—and she discovered the post 3 weeks later? The issue may actually have been resolved in person by now—but social media will “remember.” For all intents and purposes, it’s a permanent record—even though it feels ephemeral.

This is incredibly challenging for kids to understand. So what can you do?

  • Set a social media policy for your family, what can be shared and not shared. Talk about it directly.
  • Walk through hypothetical situations, using real friends and family. That way, your kids will understand it in the context of real empathy and real emotions.
  • Have your kids look for and point out to you things that their peers are doing “wrong.”  This will get them to cast a critical eye on social interactions, using real examples. It gives you a good sense of their judgement.
  • If your child does complain about you on social media, DON’T return the favor. Criticizing your child in your own social media posts is always the wrong way to go. Don’t shoot your child’s laptop.  Do explain why airing this kind of grievances publicly is NOT a good way to resolve family conflict. Look for alternate ways to re-establish trust and communication.

In the comments, please share your experiences with kids and privacy. How do you teach your kids, or your students to understand what to share, where to share and how to communicate their thoughts and feelings with regard to their own privacy as well as privacy for others.

 

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