Your kids aren't smarter than you, just more motivated.
“My kids are so much smarter than I am when it comes to technology.”
How many times have I heard this?. I speak to clients that are bewildered by their children’s use of web connected devices and they always say “My kids are so much better with computers than I am, I just can’t keep up with them.”
I say this is a huge cop-out. Your children are NOT smarter than you when it comes to anything. They are more motivated, and they have better support groups, but they are not smarter. When a parent says this, it really means that the parent doesn't have the time or motivation to do the same research the kids are doing. They don't perceive that they have as much to gain and it is easier to just throw their hands up and say that they “Can’t”. What they really mean is that they just won’t.
Lets break this down. First, your kids are more motivated. They have more to gain by finding the way around your rules. That password for the neighbor’s wifi gives them freedom to stay online after curfew. That bit torrent client gives them access to the movies you wouldn’t let them watch. That social networking app gives them access to friends at a different level than you allow. How do they do it? As a tech guy in this era of computing and electronics I can tell you that there is no “better”, “smarter” or anything else, when it comes to being “good with computers” the secret is this: google it! I don't solve my clients PC problems, find them the right solutions and fix their mistakes because I am blessed with supernatural wisdom or intellect, I just know how to google it. A PC has an error that I haven't seen before, google it, the network isn't acting the way it should, google it. I need a batch file to clear someone's printer cue at the end of the day because they have an older printer. google it, and how did I know they needed that batch file in the first place, that's right, google it. This is all your kids do. They want to find out how to get past the web filters at the school, they google it. They want to know how to download free movies or music, they google it. They want to know how to stalk someone online or stop someone from stalking them, they google that too. It takes them a little time, which they have lots of, and they often have to try more than once to find the right solution, but they do it till they have the result they want. Kids also have one benefit in this space, they are not hampered at all by a fear of breaking things. They will try anything and they never really think about the consequences. They just keep trying till they get it right or at least close enough. They are persistent because they really want that solution. What do their parents do when the kids get past the web filter at home or have a problem on social media? They throw their hands up and surrender. “Well those kids today are just so darn good at computers that I will never have a chance at understanding what they are doing so I just give up.” This is not a solution. Parents need to be as persistent as the kids are. Be as active and tenacious at finding ways to keep them safe and following rules. (And seriously, if your kids are doing something online that you want to fix, google it.) You have too, for the very same reason they don’t give up. They are fearless and don’t think about the consequences of being dangerous and breaking rules. It is actually a very simple solution. I have an acquaintance that works in Silicon Valley as a programmer. He literally helped write some of the apps that the kids are using to get into trouble. He was lamenting how his own kids were so darn smart and good at computers that he had no chance of stopping them. He had given up and resigned himself to the fact that he couldn't control his own kids online habits. My answer to him was this, “BS!” “You helped write the apps they are using. They didn't. You know the code and have years of experience, you cannot honestly think they are smarter than you. They are more motivated and tenacious, but claiming they are smarter than you is a cop-out so you don't have to put in the time and effort to parent properly.
I mentioned above that the kids have two things, Motivation and better support. Lets talk about that support group they have next. When your kids wants to know how to use a proxy server to get past the schools web filters, they don't just instantly know that. They ask the kids that are already working around it. They don't try to reinvent the wheel, they ask a friend. We as parents also have a lot of friends, acquaintances and business associates who not only may be very tech savvy, they may have a kid who already tried that thing your kid is doing. How did they deal with it? Just ask someone. We don't though, we as parents often think that if we ask for help or advice parenting that we are admitting failure. Asking for help is NOT a failure, it is simply then next step in proper parenting.
We as parents often could benefit from asking other parents for help, sharing resources and banding together to protect and help our kids. One thing I want to make very clear here is that when I say protect, I don't mean shield them from all adversity and bubble wrap their world, I mean keep enough control and guidance that you don't end up in a sick sad situation. I firmly believe that one of the most important things we can do for our kids is to let them fall down once in a while just to toughen their knees and teach them how to get back up. My kids all figure skate actively and as a parent the hardest part is letting them fall, but doing so made them strong, self reliant and it has taught them how to get themselves back up on their own after they do fall. I do however provide all the teaching, coaching, padding and safety gear they need so that falling doesn't harm them. It hurts, but it doesn't harm. There is a difference and maybe I will get into that in a future post. For now, suffice it to say that I work tirelessly to make sure my kids are protected online, they are trained to be respectable digital citizens, and then they are given a chance to fall down a little. It is difficult to keep ahead of them with technology, but I do it. It isn't because I am smarter than them, even though I am (experience is a great teacher and I will always have more of that) It is because I am motivated, tenacious, and surround myself with the support group I need to help me along the way. Just like them. And just like them, I google it….