Our daughters are part of the digital generation. Known as “digital natives”, they have lived their entire lives with easy access to technology. However, that doesn’t mean that they know how to use it wisely. They may understand how to post a video to TikTok, but do they know what they should post? If we want to raise girls who spread confidence and courage around the world, we need to be intentional about how to use what is at their fingertips and ensure they have the maturity to use it in a positive way.
Teach her: It seems like there is a new social media platform born every day. And though each one has a different application and nuance, our basic behavior on each should be the same. First of all, make sure your daughter is old enough to use it. Many platforms have restrictions on age for a reason. Keep in mind your daughter’s maturity as well. Simply because Instagram allows 13 year olds to have an account, doesn’t mean she should. However, there is great wisdom in allowing your daughter to engage online while she is under your supervision because you can (and should) monitor her activity. Discuss what each platform is known for and which one might be the best place for her to meet up with her friends. It is also important that she understands the importance of her social media imprint—once something is online, it is online forever. You can’t take it back. She shouldn’t say or post something online that she wouldn’t say face-to-face. Set time limits and make sure she isn’t substituting real life relationships for online interactions only. Be sure to set an example and remember she will be more likely to DO what you do - than what you say.
Talk to her: Even with guidelines and supervision, our girls are likely to see things online they shouldn’t and observe others acting in an unkind way. It is important that you are a safe place for your daughter to tell you about anything she encounters online. Tell her, “If you see something you shouldn’t, know that you can tell me. In fact, I want you to tell me. You won’t get in trouble, but it is important for me to be able to explain it to you so that it won’t do any further harm.” She needs to know that telling you is courageous. You, as her trusted adult, can help her put it in proper perspective. As a side note, online predators will target kids and tell them NOT to tell. Be sure your voice is first and consistent in saying, “You can trust me. I will help you. Don’t be scared to come to me. You are brave when you do. I’m here to help.”
Take it to another level: Social media and technology are truly amazing. We can learn, share, and connect in ways today that were unheard of even 20 years ago. Your daughter’s main motivation may be to be on social media to connect with her friends, but why not challenge her to take it to the next level? Does she have a cause she is passionate about? Help her share her vision online in a way that brings attention to something she cares about deeply. Maybe she is learning how to paint or skateboard. Help her create a how-to-video that will motivate other kids to get creative or active, too. The possibilities are endless. Help your girl to see technology and social media not as an end, but a tool that can do good on a global scale!
Over the past few weeks, all of us have found ourselves using technology for every aspect of our lives as we have sheltered ourselves and our families at home. We have worked, worshipped, and participated in distance learning. We have had virtual birthday parties and visited with Grandma the only way we could. It is in these moments - that we can see the powerful connection technology allows us. It is hard to imagine what technology our girls will be teaching their kids. Let’s make sure they are ready for whatever the future holds, by preparing and teaching them well today.
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