Do you remember the first time you heard someone say "the internet is the future?" I'm not sure when I heard it first but I know I've heard it often. And in the last 30 years the technological advances I've witnessed have exceeded extraordinary.
When I was a kid, we didn't have the internet. In fact, we didn't have computers until I was nearly through elementary school and even then, it wasn't a fully interactive experience. Back in those days, there was no immediacy online. We couldn't gain information instantly. We couldn't play games with people on the other side of the world. We couldn't express ourselves online twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Whoever predicted that the internet is the future was right.
I submit, however, that the internet is also your child's future. And how they handle it now should be closely and carefully monitored by you. The advances made in the last 30 years will pale in comparison to the changes we see in the next 30 years. And right now, your children are creating a lasting impression online that can and will have an effect on their futures. Schools are monitoring social media activity to reach out to prospective students. They are also checking in on that activity when deciding whether or not to admit those students. Prospective employers look in on hiring candidates as well. Social media activity can hinder job acquisition. Social networking creates an environment where birds of a feather can more easily flock together too. What kind of people are your children attracting and with whom do they surround themselves on these social platforms?
Parents, I implore you: if you have children who are active online, ask yourselves the following questions:
Do I know the social platforms on which my child is active? (Social media is much further reaching than Facebook. For example, the 12-17 & 18-24 year old segments are the fastest growing groups on Twitter.)
Do I know who my child is talking to online? And who is talking to him or her? (This is not limited to chat rooms. That's old school. Who are they playing games with or getting tweets from on twitter? Whose blogs do they read?)
What kind of language does your child use online or what kind of pictures are tagged with your child's name?
Is your child "checking in" to various locations online? (Now the whole world can know where you are and when you are there? Do you want the "whole world" knowing the whereabouts of your child?)
Educate yourselves. Do the research. And participate in social media WITH your kids. Then it won't feel so much like spying. And you won't get a surprise text from Aunt Michele telling you that your kid's been dropping the F-bomb on Facebook left and right.
The internet was and still is the future.
Someone who wishes she knew then what she knows now.