One of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself as a parent, is 'What is our family screen ethos?'. It's one of those things that can get lost in the business of family life - and before you know it hours, days and sometimes weeks will pass without you seeming to have had a proper chat about what's going on in your teenager's world. They seem to be on their devices for hours on end and when you want to spend time with them - they can't squeeze you in. They're far too busy hanging out online with their friends. So, it's easy for parents and children to drift apart and exist in parallel universes. For communication to break down.
Today's children live in an online world. Technology is changing the world they grow up in. On the one hand, it is equipping them with a whole range of digital skills that will be useful to them in the future. But it can also be a scary place. It is private, personal and portable.
Generational divides are the norm; you only have to look at how the older generation reacted to hippies in the 60s or punk rockers in the 80s to realise it's normal for parents to not always 'get' what their kids are doing. But parents are facing one of the toughest divides yet: the communication barrier around the use of technology. Whether it's understanding the devices they use, or the kinds of tasks and sites they are accessing online, there's a massive gap between what young people are doing with their technology versus what their parent's think they are doing.
This comes at a time when adults and young people alike are really valuing the importance of equipping children with a strong understanding of digital skills more than ever. After seeing just how deep the disconnect between parents and their children is when it comes to technology, I teamed up with digital skills providers OpenClassrooms to create an online guide for talking to your children about technology and to help you create a positive family screen ethos. With the help of OpenClassrooms and two digi-teens we have built a free, mini-module for parents to use to 'crack the code' when it comes to their child's tech use. The module explores areas such as working as a family to set healthy boundaries, helping parents to step into their child's online world and how to be a powerful role model.
This was built on the basis of research undertaken by OpenClassrooms, which shows that nearly half of all British parents (44%) now believe that coding is more important in their children's curriculum than learning a foreign language. Nearly a third (33%) even think it is more important than the study of English literature. This corroborates Theresa May's recent commitment to spending on digital infrastructure and the government's wider ambitions for digitising the UK (themselves noble aims on the surface, though perhaps lacking in execution).
Yet while public, government and parental awareness of the need for digital skills has grown, understanding has not; particular when it comes to young people. Despite understanding the importance of learning digital skills, the majority of British parents (90%) still worry about the safety of their children online while almost half (44%) find that their children spend more time with their devices than mum and dad.
Clear communications around what boundaries to set are key when it comes to children's use of technology. Parents need to be prepared to spend time researching, planning and talking to their kids about a healthy use of technology. A huge part of the fear and worry parents have around technology comes from a lack of understanding.
With my background in helping parents navigate the world of modern parenting and the insights from teens on their internet use we hope to help parents have fun connecting with their teenagers in both the online and offline world.