SIMPSON: Our kids must learn how to play with the live ‘grenade’ that is technology

In case you haven’t heard, the Internet can be a somewhat tasteless place – yet nobody really seems to be training our kids how to navigate it

Beau Simpson is editor of the Now-Leader. He can be reached at beau.simpson@surreynowleader.com.

Parenting in the age of smartphones is never easy. The struggle is constant.

If parents aren’t talking to their kids about the amount of time they’re spending on their phones, it’s about what they’re doing on it.

Put aside the countless hours spent watching “reaction” videos on YouTube (ask your kids), the never-ending stream of new apps being downloaded is enough to make a parent’s head spin.

And as your kids grow, those apps become more and more questionable when it comes to being age-appropriate. (Um, Snapchat for a 12-year-old? Don’t think so.)

Apps and technology aside, even the old-school act of texting can now be a raunchy exercise despite the little hands that hold the phone. (My daughter’s friends have told me what the boys text them regularly in Grade 7. You don’t want to know.)

And, in case you haven’t heard, the Internet can be a somewhat tasteless place. In the most recent example of that in the news, Apple recently removed a GIF about suicide that prompted a Vancouver Island dad to speak out.

Devin Perfect told Black Press’s Carmen Weld that he is pleased the GIF has been removed, but he thinks far more needs to be done.

“As much as I appreciate that they pulled it, there needs to be more,” he said. “Some form of filter or parental filter we can put on it.”

Perfect said he was shocked at some of the other inappropriate images he discovered.

“I found out that there was porn at one point in the GIFs, and it appears there is no way to opt out of that feature or control that feature. So, I think about my kids using it and I want to have some kind of control over their access.

“There needs to be something in the technology that allows people to either opt out of that option or put a filter on there or something.”

Not a bad idea.

But rather than trying to control content, which seems to be an impossible proposition in the “wild west” free-for-all world of the web, it strikes me that the only way to manage this issue properly is to teach our kids.

Social media educator Sean Smith agrees.

“We need to educate our youth to become better digital citizens. We are not educating anyone, we are saying ‘here’s a grenade and go play with it’,” Smith told Black Press.

“We’ve spent a lifetime teaching our kids to be safe. If they are going to drive, we give them driving lessons and make them take a test and get a license so they can now navigate things safely, but with this vehicle we call the Internet we simply hand it over and tell them to find their own way.

“That super highway can be just as dangerous as the real thing and we’ve seen that.”

So, what can we do?

“We, as adults and parents and mentors, need to be there to know where and when our children are using this content,” Smith said.

“As a parent talk about technology, how kids are using it, what is out there and how to use it, “Perfect added, “so we can all make better decisions to support our kids.”

Good advice indeed.

Beau Simpson is editor of the Now-Leader. He can be reached at beau.simpson@surreynowleader.com.

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