How does a parent best raise a teen growing in a culture of constant communication they just don't understand?
"Kids are still kids, and kids need parents. Good parenting is linked to everything good all the way though your life," said Larry Rosen, a researcher at California State University and author of "REWIRED: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).
"These kids are going to be involved with technology, get used to it and figure out how to parent with it," he added. [Read: Is Constant Facebooking Bad for Teens?]
Rosen presented some tips and tricks on parenting digital natives at the American Psychological Association meeting in Washington D.C. today, Aug. 6.
Parenting in the digital age
Young adults are constantly connected to not only the Internet but to communicating through Facebook, texting and instant messaging. To them, being on Facebook isn't "being online," it's how they communicate.
Parents need to learn to communicate with their kids in any way they can — be that texting, email or instant messaging, Rosen said. Sit down once a week and ask your kids what is going on in their digital networks. Work on having an open floor for communication about their lives, digital or not.
"As the tech is changing as rapidly as it is, the generations are changing more rapidly than we are used to," Rosen said. "You have to realize that they aren't bad they are just different." He suggests spending time learning about new technologies and advancements in social media.
Another tip? Acknowledge that your kid is tied to their media devices, be it cellphone or computer. During family and study times allow two-minute "tech breaks" every 15 minutes, instead of letting them constantly monitor their phones (or banishing their phones).
Healthy social lives
To teens, Facebook and texting is just another way of communicating. Understanding this, parents can still teach their kids how to communicate and socialize with others in a healthy, creative way. A recent study found that some college students are literally addicted to social media, because it is so engrained in how they connect and communicate with their friends and family.
A recent forum brought 200 Boston-area teens together to talk about breakups. Called "Face it don’t Facebook it," the initiative led by the Boston Public Health Commission encourages open discussion and debate about how to communicate and carry on relationships in the world of Facebook. Having discussions like this with your kids can help teach them how to communicate, not just in the digital world but in the real world as well.
Rosen encourages introducing your kids to these types of technologies as early as possible, "as soon as they express interests in anything with tech in it," he said. "If you start parenting your 1-year-old around technology and the appropriate use of it, by the time they are in school they will be well versed in how to use it."