“After spending the past year traveling to more than 35 cities across the country consulting with schools on social media, technology and student wellness issues, as well as visiting many of the schools in Silicon Valley, I’ve found it’s a fallacy that most parents working in technology want their kids to live completely screen-free lives. It certainly may be easier to keep younger children from using screens, but all the Silicon Valley parents I interviewed agreed it isn’t realistic once children are school-aged. Instead, they are focused on finding ways to make sure their kids have healthy experiences online and in real life — and in some ways are further along than other parents in doing so.
To help tweens and teens become more aware, I recommend parents require kids to do a little research before downloading any new apps or opening new online accounts. Who founded and created the app? Have there been any recent related scandals in the news? Can they find out anything about the app’s data privacy and cybersecurity issues? This process of investigation can help kids actively reflect on how and where they should spend time online. And, I should add, it’s no less applicable for apps that are marketed as educational, as the FBI recently warned.
In the end, as Instagram’s Zigmond puts it, “the basic issues around parenting and helping to set boundaries and helping kids make healthy choices around all kinds of things are kind of the same, no matter what.” Parents around the country are more in line with Silicon Valley parents than they might believe: We’re all trying to figure it out in an ever-changing digital world. It’s a good idea to keep up the pressure on companies to protect children. And less shaming and more proactive solutions will go a long way in creating a safer, happier, healthier world for kids online and in real life.“