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I can’t believe how fast our world is changing! Technology has brought so many conveniences and opportunities that were not possible even just a few years ago. While I love technology, I am raising a daughter in a world that is very different than the one I grew up in. It is both exciting and concerning. Having taught technology for several years to both elementary and middle school students, I think I have a pretty good sense of what is appropriate technology use for my daughter, but then I hear stories that make me second guess my decisions. I want to make sure my daughter is prepared effectively to enter the online world and will know how to make wise choices when it comes to her online presence. I want that for all of the students I work with!
I grew up in a home where family time was very important. We had nearly every dinner meal at the table together where we talked and shared our experiences from throughout the day. Our friends knew that they would have to participate in our family dinner banter, but never seemed to mind it! My brother and I might have been rolling our eyes as the crazy things my dad would say as we got older, but our friends would be rolling on the floor laughing. Family time was very important and we did everything together as a family. We had a single television that was in the living room. My parents would not buy themselves their own TV for their bedroom, and would certainly not entertain my brother’s and my pleas for one for our own rooms. We would watch movies or TV shows together, play video games together, and listen to music together.
My father was a computer programmer, so technology was an important part of our lives as well, but there were serious limits to what we were allowed to do. There was a family computer on the main floor of the house that we needed to share to do our school work. At the time, being on the Internet meant using dial-up, tying up our only phone line. If I was spending time online, usually my brother was lurking nearby, impatiently waiting for his turn. If I am honest, I did the same to him!
Sometimes as I entered middle school and high school, I felt like our family rules were too strict. I was jealous of my friends who had their own television, or even their own phone in their room! I thought my parents’ strictness might mean that my friends wouldn’t want to come over to my house, but that was never the case. Thinking back now, I cannot think of a single time a friend didn’t want to come over because they didn’t like our family rules and sought more privacy.
As a parent now, I often think back to how I was raised and appreciate my parents’ foresight. I am still very close with my parents and brother, and am taking some of the lessons I learned from my childhood into my own home. Fortunately, my husband also grew up in a home with similar values, so deciding to parent with those values is not a fight for us.
I love technology and enjoy having new gadgets to simplify my life. A large part of my job at Eastern Christian is to keep up with technology and be willing to try new things. Of course, our house has technology that is accessible to our elementary-aged child. Based on my experience working with technology at Eastern Christian, we have made decisions about how she accesses that technology, to help her learn healthy boundaries with technology so it doesn’t end up consuming her and overtaking her social life.
We don’t know everything there is to know about raising a child with technology today. I am under no grand delusions that we have it right and won’t make any mistakes. The computer curriculum at Eastern Christian from Kindergarten through 8th grade gives students information on how to stay safe online and how to make good decisions. As parents, we don’t always have all of that information, though, and need to work together to make sure we are raising our children to be good global citizens as well as good online citizens.
Fortunately Eastern Christian recognizes the importance of partnering with parents in raising students with technology. The elementary school will be hosting an important information session with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to teach parents about Internet Safety on Tuesday, November 20 after Chapel at 9:15. This session will allow parents to have more information on how to ensure you are aware of your children’s online activity, and how to manage cyberbullying.
I will be attending this session, because while we have some important rules in place in our home, it is not enough to keep our daughter safe by maintaining status-quo. I need to be vigilant and keep up with online trends to help protect her and help her participate safely. My daughter hasn’t approached the age of desiring social media accounts yet, but this information session will better prepare me to handle it as she inevitably will be wanting them sooner than I am ready! I need to be aware of what is coming down the road for her so I can mindfully prepare for it.
If you have questions about healthy technology or online habits, I am always willing to speak with parents who would like to learn more information, or to help you make a plan for how your children access technology at home.