NetHui 2011 – Day 1: Digital Citizenship – 21st Century Parenting

21st Century Parenting – Challenges and Solutions

Lee Chisholm, Operations manager, NetSafe

This was an obvious choice as a session for me to attend, and it opened with an attention grabbing quote…

“Three times as many smart phones every minute are activated than there are babies being born” – Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson

This quote sets the stage for the overwhelming influx of technologies into our lives and especially the lives of our children. The problem is, parents are being fed these lines time and again to the point where many throw in the towel and give up trying to stay current with what their children are doing.

Even more worrisome than the parents giving up, is the parents abdicating the responsibility of teaching and modelling these skills to schools. Schools do not have the resources to do this stuff alone

What NetSafe is doing in this space is a two-pronged approach;

  • Schools: Leveraging the NAG 5 (National Administrative Guideline #5) for providing a safe environment
  • Parents: Presenting the challenge of:
    • What parenting do you HAVE to do in the digital environment
    • What parenting do you HAVE to do in the pre-digital context

There was a somewhat predictable call for a trusted person to be available (via the schools) for parents to use as a resource. This may be through organised sharing sessions (i.e. parent meetings at schools), or informally on an ad-hoc basis, which may prove overwhelming for the person offering their expertise – or it may result in no contacts as no parent wants to admit they don’t understand this stuff and need help. To combat this conundrum, the following options were suggested:

  • Parents may WANT to know about Facebook / other service as a specific rather than an umbrella [C word] safety session. May gain better cut through
  • 2/3 of 6-9 year olds are on social sites from Club Penguin to Facebook
    • Create an environment where the children can discuss and disclose their experiences
    • No judgement, just discussion, no fear of getting into trouble
    • Create a friend-less Facebook and show the levels and settings in relation to privacy
    • Bebo also has an animation around this
  • When educating, be sure not to portray the services (e.g. Facebook) as the enemy, they are providing stuff based on as much information as they can get from you.
    • Teach that privacy settings are buried because they want info and make it hard to constrain that…

In summary, the session didn’t expose any earth shattering news, but did reinforce how ill-equipped we are (as a community) to equip our future user base with the skills they need to operate safely on the network. In addition, we are also failing our current (or potential) users who are falling further and further behind the technology wave and are thus unable to model the digital citizenry that we would like them to exhibit in the future.

In the absence of reasoned guidelines, a whole new generation of ethics and user behavior will emerge. It is my view that the duty falls on us as practitioners and users of the network to pass our knowledge along to both the current and upcoming generations of users.

  • Technology is connecting more devices than ever before and there are no signs it will be slowing down
  • Kids are surpassing parents and teachers alike in their adoption, use and understanding of this technology
  • Teachers do not (as a rule) have the requisite level of skill to address the learning opportunities presented
  • Parents are feeling out of their depth and unable to understand let alone guide their children in their discovery of services available on the network.
  • Kids need to:
    • understand the risks they accept when using services and the network itself
    • discuss freely their questions and concerns
    • understand their role in the digital citizenry of the network
    • appreciate what the services are there for, the (business) motivations and why this is important to the kids (in terms of digital footprints etc)

So, what can we do? Stand up and be counted – be part of the solution, offer your expertise to your local community (School(s), Greypower, Community College etc). Get engaged in organisations which are making an effort – join NetSafe (etc).