Long-time Smarties know I’ve got six whole kids! They range in age from 10 months to 16 years. Technology has been a huge part of their lives. They literally can’t comprehend a world before smart phones. They giggle at the inconvenience of telephones with chords and vinyl records. They laughed through the original Ghostbusters and it wasn’t at Bill Murray’s quick wit. It was in response to the “cheesy special effects.”
My kids were born and are being raised in a technological and information age. No parent can keep their kids from wanting, loving, using smart devices. This tech is part of life now. As natural to them as indoor plumbing. Life without it is unimaginable.
That doesn’t mean parents can’t impose limits. We absolutely should and I’ve spoken about that before. Setting boundaries and limiting your kids’ screen time is good for their bodies and their minds. Parental blocks and limited screen time can only keep them free from the horrors of the internet for so long though. Eventually they are going to be off and running, through the great unknown, on their own.
My generation sort of ushered in this age of internet memes and YouTube notoriety. I know what’s out there waiting for my kids. It’s a priority to teach them what smart media looks like from young. It’s imperative they learn how to be intelligent consumers. It is too easy to slip down the rabbit hole of nonsense, getting and spreading false information.
Stupidity, like chlamydia, is hella contagious if you don’t protect yourself you are going to catch it. Let’s protect ourselves and each other. There are no hard and fast rules on this. Every family is different and every parent has their own idea about what smart media looks like. This is all, obviously, from my own perspective raising my own children. Here is how I protect us and guide my kids toward smart media.
#1 – Help them recognize fake news.
Teach them to question everything, even if it means they will question you from time to time. We should never take anything at face value, especially anything on the internet. If something doesn’t seem right, it’s probably not right. It must stand up to fact checking, if not, it’s not that smart.
#2 – Introduce reliable sources.
To piggy back on the first point, it isn’t enough to just stay away from fake news sources. Our kids need to be able to seek out and recognize reliable resources. Where do they go should they need to begin research. Which publications, institution, organizations can be counted on to provide trustworthy information? This may be an eye-opening exercise for you too. Finding trustworthy resources online is much more difficult than I first thought.
#3 – Don’t get sucked in by false advertising
In the digital age, marketing has become clever and covert. Every time our kids download a new app or visit a website and sign up to play games. Every time they join a new social media platform, businesses are collecting their information and selling to them. The first lesson I taught my kids about consumerism is that commercials are lies and so are the advertisers and brands that sell to us. The U.S. has no rules against false advertising. They do not monitor or limit brands who make false claims. All is fair in love and advertising. Once I revealed that advertisers were under no obligation to tell the truth, my kids stopped letting themselves be persuaded by the latest anything.
#4 – The truth matters
Post-truth is the new word introduced to the Oxford English Language Dictionary in 2016. It is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Please do not raise post-truthers. This is very important. If we don’t teach our children to be truth seekers, they will gravitate only toward media which reinforces an ideology, rather than seeking out diverse perspectives. Shielding ourselves from realities that do not align with our expectation of them makes us apathetic to the lived experiences of others.
#5 – Set the standard
Our kids don’t really listen to what we say. They watch what we do and model our behavior, whether they like it or not. The best way to teach them how to choose and consume smart media is to do so ourselves. You are already halfway there if you read this blog! This isn’t to mean that good, old-fashioned, mindless entertainment has no value, just that like with an actual diet, our media diet should also be balanced and chock full of nutritional value.
What do you consider smart media and how do you ensure your kids consider it too?