Parenting and Teaching in the Social Age

By Hilary Smith, guest blogger

They say that humans are social creatures — and that’s more true now than it’s been at any point in human history, given the explosive growth in the adoption of smartphones, tablets, and other technological devices by kids. These days, kids are sharing details about their lives before they even realize that some information doesn’t need to be shared, and adults need to adjust the way they educate them to match.

Where Are Kids At With Technology?

Children are naturally adept at learning new things, so it should come as no surprise that many of them are highly adept with technology. In fact, a significant number of parents and teachers believe their children are better with technology than they are, which is a fairly major problem if we’re going to properly regulate kids’ use of technology.

The main problem isn’t that kids are using technology — it’s that they’re using too much technology, often to the detriment of their growth in other areas. Electronics are often seen as a cure-all for boredom — there are always new posts on social media, new games to play, new videos to watch, and new ways to try and improve their social status.

As noted by Pew, 92% of teens go online daily, and 80% are going on several times a day or more. It’s not wrong to say that for many teens, technology is what they go to when they’re not doing anything else.

What Does This Mean For Adults?

First, and most importantly, we need to track kids’ phones. If they’re not old enough to go out on their own without telling an adult what they’re doing, then they’re not old enough to have completely unsupervised use of technology. If you're a parent, tracking their phones makes it possible to keep tabs on what they’re doing and help steer them back onto the right course if they start to stray. Given how addicting technology can be, it also helps you understand how often children are looking at screens. As a teacher, you can restrict cell use in the classroom by either forbidding it completely, or only allowing students to have their phones when you're using mobile technology. If your school has a one-to-one tablet or laptop program, you can also monitor your students' use of technology by setting some technology ground rules and/or disabling internet access.

Second, it means explaining the limits of technology — and not giving them access to it until they’ve proved they can handle it. Children want technology so badly that they’ll agree to almost anything in order to have access to it. As a result, we can leverage their desire for access to technology by getting them to come to an agreement about its use. If you’re a parent, you can get them to agree to do their homework or keep up on chores by providing technology as an incentive. If you’re a teacher, you can use technology as an extrinsic reward for completing assignments as well as an intrinsic incentivizing tool for tech-heavy projects. With these approaches, we can guide kids so they avoid becoming so addicted to technology that they never learn how to do anything else.

Social parenting (parenting in the age of social media) is rapidly becoming the new norm for our society — the sooner we accept that and deal with the changes that technology has brought, the easier it will be to make sure we raise a healthy, well-rounded new generation.

For more information about the evolution and present state of social parenting, check out this infographic.