Being safe in a digital world: A Father’s Perspective

I feel like I’m heading for one of those “After School Special Endings” when it comes to my daughter and technology. I have been pretty open with her and have allowed her to explore technology on her own with no real filtering on my part. I guess this comes from the excessive trust that my fifteen-year old has earned throughout the years. I describe her as “lawful” because she is so concerned with doing things the right way and by the book. She doesn’t lie, steal or cheat. These traits can be annoying at times, but when it comes to parenting, it makes my job easier.

So, will the day come when something terrible happens via her use of technology? Am I blinded by the inevitable blinders that all parents have toward their offspring? 

After looking into this subject a bit through this tech course, I’m planning on having a heart-to-heart discussion with her about being safe online and protecting her identity.

One reason I trust her is because she recently created a Twitter account. She didn’t just make one, she made two. One “fake” one that has nothing to do with her real name. This is the one she uses to follow celebrities and browse around. She also has a “real” one that she keeps private in case she ever wants to Tweet something real. 

She also changed her Google account. I set one up for her several years ago, but she has grown into her own and created her own identity with a safe password. 

She hated Facebook for a long time, but now she uses it pretty regularly. I’m not sure how safe that space is, but it’s a case of “everybody’s doing it” so what am I supposed to be concerned with?

Her biggest technology tool, and I’m sure this is true for most teenagers, is her cell phone. She doesn’t have a full-fledged smart phone, but she has a keypad and texting capabilities, and she uses it constantly. There was some switch that went on inside her head between age 13 and 15 that said, “START TEXTING ALL THE TIME!!!” And so she does. 

So do I have to worry about her meeting some stranger online? Or having an online stalker? Does she use online to bully or is she being cyberbullied? I don’t know. I guess this is where our conversation will take us.

2 Replies to “Being safe in a digital world: A Father’s Perspective”

  1. A father’s perspective is interesting and is a good one for me because I have shepherded two children through technology and am now in that process with a third. I think that your approach is exactly the right one–what I hear it is: you inform your child completely and make the dangers and rewards explicit. I am not as good or as advanced with technology as you are, so I am perhaps not as able to do what you do successfully, but I try nonetheless.

    And we had struggles at times in negotiating what my wife and I felt were appropriate boundaries with what my oldest children were experiencing from everyone else.

    My question comes in from here: I am an informed user of technology and I see you as an advanced practitioner who teaches and who has integrated technology into the classroom. We are, by definition, a good resource for our children. How then, do we extrapolate that resource out and make it available and raise awareness with/to other parents? Is this a job of the education establishment, a job of parents? Do we even have a communal standard for what online safety, usage and boundaries look like yet, or are we in process?

  2. Jeff, what a great piece. Honestly it was so great to read about your daughter. She sounds like an incredible young lady with a smart quality about her. To me, it sounds like you haven’t had to model much but that she just gets it….it being how the world around us is. Really, a fake twitter account? Not all kids would come up with that. I was so happy to hear about her at the age of 15 not having a smartphone yet. I wrote in my response today how so many of my 12 year old students have them and bring them to school and I’m baffled by that concept. Aren’t they at an age where it is just about the people around them and not worrying about the whole world and what is at their fingertips? It is a scary thing to think about what these kids can have access too and I am a believer that it is important to teach and model how our kids should use these things. For your daughter to respond the way she has, I believe that you have done that modeling. Great thoughts.

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