We're excited to share this post from the man who brought text messaging to the U.S. He's got some great advice for you... and it involves elves!
In American folklore, a Christmas elf is a diminutive creature that lives with Santa Claus in the North Pole and acts as his helper. Santa's elves are often said to make the toys in Santa's workshop and take care of his reindeer, among other tasks.
I have been working with great people, and maybe some elf’s too, in the media literacy space for many years. It dates back to the time I helped launch text messaging services in the U.S. with some great colleagues. You remember, back before Santa had email and a website and before NORAD tracked his sleigh by RADAR and assisted GPS. I knew we were changing things and that new techniques were going to be needed to manage a fully connected world. We anticipated that the way people communicated with one another would change dramatically, but did not expect phones being overused, interrupting sleep, changing the dinner table dynamic, or disrupting classrooms. Higher prices, big phones, and slow data speeds made overuse a future problem. Texts, streaming video and social media were years in the future.
Now it is difficult to imagine a world without them. Many feel we are better off due to this incredible innovation. New and increasingly unfettered communications bring great benefits as well as some challenges. I hope to offer some simple tips to assist you as you shepherd children through this wireless wonderland of connectivity (couldn’t resist).
A recent study speaks to that. Most parents feel the benefits far outweigh the risks of phones and smart phones, tablets, etc. They are, however, less sure about the benefits of social media. Parents are growing in confidence that they know what their kids are doing online (keeping in mind that phone/smartphone means online now). Most parents have rules and guidelines for online use, things like time limits and family contracts. 1 in 3 use some form of "Parental Control." Interestingly, of those who cited that they don’t use parental controls, one of the biggest reasons was that they trust their kids. Also of note, there seems to be a relationship between parent’s confidence in knowing what their kids do online and their use of parental controls. I suspect that as kids grow older the gap in parental awareness and knowledge compared to their actual online activity increases, and that is mostly a good thing as they grow in responsibility and resilience and, hopefully, through increased attention to teaching them lessons in digital literacy.
There are many excellent resources to help you take care of your reindeer, but I hear from many parents and educators that they don’t know where to start. I encourage you to gift yourself by following these 5-step instructions, no assembly required:
I wish for ELLLFs:
Engaged parents and educators who:
Learn- First get yourself familiar with and the apps and social media your kids use, and learn about the right parental controls or family—use rules right for your parenting style…it raises your confidence and competence.
Lead- Model good behaviors (don’t text/talk/browse/chat/search and drive, keep tech off the dinner table and out of the dining room, turn phones off in the bedroom, set limits for yourself and schedule time for family tech use, etc.). This sets you up for success by being credible and believable.
Listen- Engage actively with your kids with tech. Use what they use. Let them teach you about apps, their self-moderation efforts, their concerns. This takes time, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer here. Your kids are special and unique and the tech world is not slowing down, so don’t expect someone else to know what is appropriate.
Follow- Industry experts who reflect your parenting style are easy to follow online. Learn from them so you can teach your kids, because there is no better advisor for your kids than you.
So Elllf’s, get busy making the toys and taking care of the reindeer. May the peace and joy of this holiday season be with you and your family and friends always.
Jack McArtney is a technology executive with experience in product design, business development, network operations, corporate responsibility and philanthropy. As CEO and Founder of mccartney group, he consults and advises social entrepreneurs and innovators on how to create sustained value by integrating product responsibility best practices into their design and operations. The work of family tech safety, connecting underserved older adults, and maximizing the abilities of those with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities inspires him.
Jack received the National Association of Media Literacy Educator’s “Media Literate Media Award” and the Family Online Safety Institute’s “Award for Outstanding Achievement”. He serves on the PBS Kids Next Generation Media Advisory Board. With his wife he raised two digital natives who are now flourishing online and off. He has infinite passion for the beautiful game (proper football) and confesses to binge watch BPL, is frustrated by the fading possibility of a single-digit golf handicap, and listens to albums not playlists.
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