My Fellow Trepid Tech Mom,
I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. Allow me to explain.
It’s been just over a year since I wrote my first Trepid Tech Mom blog. At the time, no one even knew this website existed and yet I was hesitant to push “publish” because deep down inside I was afraid someone would actually read the thoughts I‘d finally put into words. It would eventually take eight months for me to tell family and friends about Trepid Tech Mom and welcome them to the site.
In the beginning, speaking up as a Trepid Tech Mom, I worried. From what I saw in my social feeds, it was clear many other parents and caregivers saw things differently when it came to offering an online window into our children’s lives. As a result, I worried about offending someone with my point of view. I worried about having a person imply my family’s social sharing policies were wrong. And perhaps more than anything, I worried about finding out no one else felt the same way—and thus, my family's efforts to keep the kids’ digital footprints small would be hopeless.
Now a year later, it turns out I have ruffled a few feathers. There are some who have said I'm "pretty paranoid" when it comes to sharing photos of our kids online. Others have referenced “lawnmower parenting” on a post wherein I encouraged parents to communicate their family’s social sharing policy with others. I’ve been told “the age of being a digital hermit is gone” in response to a blog that reminded us all to be safe and thoughtful if and when posting pics of our kids online. Another parent mentioned that same blog was “a bit over the top.”
Yes. Some of my worries have become a reality, but I’m oddly okay with that because one, in particular, turned into something spectacular: Trepid Tech Moms are everywhere.
[Insert sigh of relief.]
In the spirit of celebrating one year of Trepid Tech Mom, I’d like to do two things. First, I want to thank each one of you for proving that none of us are alone in this path to safe and thoughtful digital parenting. Second, I want to share a few things for which I’ve learned thus far in this ongoing journey:
Lessons learned in a year of Trepid Tech Mom
THERE ARE A TON OF GREAT RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO US.
Not long ago, during a Safer Internet Day livestream, a panelist mentioned how difficult it is to get the fantastic resources available to parents and caregivers in front of them. Everyone nodded in agreement, including me. A year ago, this path to safe and thoughtful digital parenting seemed unfamiliar, puzzling and sometimes frightening. That is until resources like the following began to present themselves:
Find these are more on the TrepidTechMom.com Resources tab; websites and tools by industry experts, apps that seem handy, news and views that give different perspectives on the topic of digital parenting, and more. Check them out, bookmark the page and share with others. And by all means, if you have resources to add, drop me a message because I’d love to learn about them.
WE’VE GOT TO FOCUS ON THE “BIG PICTURE.”
Several disturbing social media headlines have made the news lately proving there’s plenty to worry about when it comes to keeping kids safe online. Privacy fails, and online safety concerns present themselves all the time from pedophiles lurking in the comment sections of children's videos to the endless concerns related to Facebook privacy and data. But there’s more to safe and thoughtful digital parenting than putting out one “privacy fail” or “online safety” fire after the next. We can’t ignore the "big picture” of teaching our kids how to be safe and thoughtful digital citizens. While these incidents are scary for us as parents and caregivers, and often more so for our kids, the sad reality is that if our children are online, they will face something scary and dangerous again. And we, as parents and caregivers, need to be prepared for the next time.
“Digital parenting is a fluid process. It’s not going anywhere, and we can’t just block it or delete it. Instead, we can empower our kids, all while keeping a watchful eye and open communication. This is parenting in 2019 and beyond.” — Cool Mom Tech
Because it’s no longer the “boogie man” who is going to stalk us online and "abduct" our kids. It’s the “boogie man” we don’t know about who is accessing our children’s innocent images and using them for reasons we don’t want to know about—and WITHOUT our knowledge. It’s the “boogie man” who is posing as another kid online and forming relationships with our children. It’s the cyberbully who continues to post cruel comments on another child’s social media. It’s the inappropriate material our children are facing while using platforms marketed as “safe for kids.”
Never stop demanding tech giants and social platforms to “do better” when it comes to protecting our children and families online. That said, we, as parents and caregivers, also have the enormous responsibility to establish social sharing policies and standards that help keep our children safe, as well as teach them how to be good digital citizens.
EVERY FAMILY SHOULD ESTABLISH A SOCIAL SHARING POLICY.
One year ago, the concept of a “family social sharing policy” was foreign to me. Today, I’m a firm believer that every family should establish their own.
A family’s social sharing policy is a set of standards in which we share with those around us and, in return, ask that they respect. Some have notified me that it will someday be impossible to keep our kids’ off the Internet. And I couldn’t agree more. But that’s not the point. As parents and caregivers, we can’t keep our children offline forever, nor should we attempt to if they’re going to thrive in this modern, constantly-connected world. That said, we also don’t have to contribute to our kiddos’ digital footprints actively before they can establish their own digital footprint, nor do we need to hand them a smartphone and wish them the best of luck.
Take time as a family to establish your social sharing policy and set of standards and expectations. A Trepid Tech Mom blog is in the works now on how to do such a thing but if you need some inspiration right away, check out this Family Media Agreement by Common Sense Media.
NEVER BE AFRAID TO SPEAK UP.
This lesson is a big one. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this Trepid Tech Mom journey, it is don't be afraid to speak up. Speak up if you or your kiddo sees cyberbullying. Speak up if you know a child is being exploited online. Speak up if you have an Internet crime complaint. Speak up and make your family's social sharing policy part of everyday conversation. Speak up if you don’t want your child’s image online. Speak up if you catch a stranger photographing your child.
Never be afraid to speak up.
Start the conversation about safe and thoughtful digital parenting. Decide what is best for your family. Then make your social sharing policy known and standards clear. There’s a tremendous amount of work to be done to make the Internet a safer place for its users, but we, as parents and caregivers, MUST be part of the solution as well.
THERE ARE PLENTY OF REASONS TO LOVE THE INTERNET.
Seems about time to say, “I love the Internet,” and it’s not all bad news. Kids everywhere are using the internet in safe and thoughtful ways and so are adults. Change is taking place and connecting millions who are doing great things!
Girls Who Code is a movement that was founded with a single mission: to close the gender gap in technology. So far, they’ve reached almost 90,000 girls of all backgrounds in all 50 states. The Wait Until 8th pledge is empowering parents to rally together to delay giving children a smartphone until at least 8th grade. By banding together, this is decreasing the pressure felt by kids and parents alike over the kids having a smartphone. Be Smart For Kids is bringing together all responsible adults to reduce suicides and the number of unintentional shootings that occur when children get ahold of an unsecured firearm.
Embrace the positive power that exists on the internet and be the change you want to see for your children and family.
POLICIES WILL EVOLVE. STANDARDS SHOULD NOT.
Like anything, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a family’s social sharing policies. There are many things our respective “crews” will have to think about as kids grow up. Social sharing policies will have to adjust but how so we can’t even begin to fathom right now. In a few short years, social media, apps, pros, and cons of digital devices, screen time limits, etc. are all going to look entirely different than they do now. While technology—and concerns because of such technology—will change, safe and thoughtful digital parents and caregivers will always:
Guide children in this world, both online and off.
Teach children how to be good digital citizens.
Interact with technology alongside children.
Talk about technology with children.
Serve as role models for children as to what healthy digital habits look like.
Keep up with the latest in safe and thoughtful digital parenting.
Inspire all, young and old, to think about technology and how it can impact—both positively and negatively—ourselves as well as those around us.
Make sure your policies evolve as appropriate. But don’t stray from the standards your family has set. As safe and thoughtful digital parents, our social sharing policies will always be centered around protecting our children.
This past year has been eyeopening. What started as a desire to keep up with technology as it relates to our kids and families has enabled me to find a voice that I was once afraid to use.
In our family right now, sharing our children’s lives online just isn’t worth the risk because my husband and I can’t nail down how our kids would benefit from doing so. Therefore our social sharing policy is to keep our children’s image off of social media, and we’ve communicated that with family and friends who, and I believe I speak for him as well, we would both like to sincerely thank for their help in respecting our choice to keep the kid’s digital footprints small.
And again, I want to sincerely thank each one of you for your part in this Trepid Tech Mom journey. It’s an honor to navigate the path to safe and thoughtful digital parenting alongside you.
Stay safe and thoughtful out there, Trepid Tech Mom. And let's help our kids do the same. We’re in this together. You are not alone.