Please don't shoot me. I'm just the messenger, here to deliver a short list of "tech resolutions" from your kids. Teaching weekly middle school digital literacy classes, aka "Cyber Civics," gives me a unique view into their digital world; a world where they spend more time than they do in school or with their families. I've discovered that they have some strong opinions on resolutions they'd like us to make in 2015.
- Look Up. Kids tell me there is nothing they dislike more than being on the soccer field or in the choir recital only to see mom or dad looking down at their smart phone. When attending these events, they'd like us to look up and be present, which is actually the next resolution...
- Be Present. This doesn't include recording every goal, pirouette, or touchdown for posterity. It actually means enjoying the moment and, in fact, not posting photos, videos, or announcements of your child's every achievement (there is a reason "overshare" is 2014's word of the year). Kids actually don't like it when we overshare like this. Which leads to...
- Practice Conscious Posting. Kids say they really dislike it when parents post photos of them without their knowledge or consent. Sure, they're our kids, and they're minors, right? But remember, a photo they might consider embarrassing will become a permanent part of their digital footprint; one they have to live with forever and ever. So, I agree with the kids, it's good policy to ask first, post second. And if your child is too young to have an opinion, ask yourself if the image is one you want to become a permanent part of your child's digital reputation.
- Consider The Privacy of Others. This resolution isn't from the kids but one I added on their behalf... last week there was a story in the news about the partner of a Welsch father who took a video of his 4-year-old daughter in a school play and posted it to her personal Facebook page. The school demanded she remove it because it violated a school policy about protecting the privacy of others who appeared in the video. This is an important reminder to us all, even if we are at a school without a policy like this one, remember that not every family wants their child's image shared online.
- Try Something New. It's easy to bash new apps with funny names -- Yik Yak, Snapchat, Ask.fm, Tumblr, Vine, Kik -- and scratch our heads in wonder why kids find them so appealing. So resolve to give at least one of them a try in order to find out. I tried Snapchat over the holidays and found I actually like sending short, silly videos to family members, especially knowing they quickly disappear and won't fill up my hard drive (of course, as we've all learned in 2014, nothing really "disappears" online... so be careful what you share).
- Follow and Friend. Surprising as it sounds, kids tell me that they like it when their parents "friend" or "follow" them on social media (well, preteens like it, anyway). So when your kids first start socializing online, resolve to join them on the social media sites they use and get to know what they're up to and whom they hang out with. Just like you would in real life. But be transparent, nobody likes a spy lurking about. Eventually as kids get older they will want more privacy and have accounts you won't keep up with, but establishing a watchful eye early on gets them in the habit of thinking twice before they post because, as my kids like to say, "big mother is always watching."
- "Like" But Don't Comment. Kids like it when we "like" their posts, but they don't like it so much when we comment (for example, the night I posted "Go to Bed" on my daughter's Facebook was a Big Mistake). Kids in my classes have expressed disappointment over parents not showing interest in the funny, creative, and/or intriguing things they share online. This window to their world closes fast, so resolve to take advantage of it while you can.
- Finally, Get Interested. This is probably the most important resolution you can make. The time to get digitally-interested is now. Actually it was five minutes ago, but it's still not too late.
As Clay Shirky explains in "Here Comes Everybody" (2008), "Communication tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring." He wrote,
It's when a technology becomes normal, then, ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen, and for young people today, our new social tools have passed normal and are heading to ubiquitous, and invisible is coming.
That was seven years ago. It's safe to say that for kids today, invisible is here. It's high time for parents to resolve to get interested.