Text Messaging, Chatting, Social Networking and Your Child

I now know why my parents and the parents of my peers were concerned about allowing me to walk around a mall without adult supervision during my late childhood and early adolescence.  Truth be told, they understood what a child of this age was developmentally ready to navigate and the mall was not one of these things.  Today’s parents are faced with more significant challenges.  Instead of making the decision of allowing their children to tour the mall, today’s parents must decide what level of exposure their children should have to the ever-changing world of technology.  Older children and young adolescents lack the emotional readiness to navigate the seemingly endless world of the Internet, mobile technology, and social networking.  Many of these youngsters feel as though they face social isolation if they are not permitted to chat, instant message, or text as much as their friends do.  They project anger and frustration and fear humiliation if this technology is not available to them.  I do not posit that these technologies should be removed from these youngsters’ lives.   I do suggest, however, that parents take the necessary precautions to create the boundaries and limits that these youngsters and not developmentally ready to do create themselves.  This may include using parental controls on the computers, communicating with your cell phone provider about limiting text messages, and password protecting computers.  Talk to your children about your reasons for setting limits rather than just instinctively enforcing limits.  Make it a teachable moment that provides a template for future decision making.

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