Parenting teens is not always easy. Teens are changing every day, finding their independence, pushing boundaries, spending endless hours online, and rolling their eyes at most of what their parents say. (Let’s be honest, we did the same thing when we were teens!) But it’s a different world now, right? We need our teens to be aware of things that we never thought about - like navigating disinformation online or building a positive digital footprint or understanding the way our personal data is being used. How do we help them navigate these complex issues when we aren’t even sure they are listening to us?
Let’s be honest, teens are watching what we do more than they are listening to what we say. If you want to teach your teenagers how to be critical thinkers, effective communicators and responsible users of technology, you are going to need to show them. You need to role model positive behaviors so that they see them in practice. Everything you do online can impact what your teens do - so why not show them how to be responsible digital citizens? How about modeling media literate behaviors in the way you interact with the digital world?
Here are 5 tips for modeling media literate behaviors:
- Ask before you share about them. It’s important that you establish and maintain trust with your teen. It’s also important that your teen knows that you respect them and their privacy. A simple way to establish trust and show them respect is to never post about them without asking their permission. NEVER. Don’t share something funny they said or a picture you took of them or even a gushing message of pride without asking them if it’s okay for you to do that. This exemplifies an incredibly important skill for them to develop when they are deciding to post or share about others.
- Pause before you share media content. Show your teens that you check the credibility and reliability of information before you share it. Also show them how to take a breath before sharing content that made you react emotionally, especially if it was something that made you angry. Be conscious of the role you are playing in the media environment and if you are exemplifying the behavior of someone who thinks before they post.
- Ask questions about media content. Media literate people are curious, inquisitive, and skeptical about the media they consume and create. Modeling habits of inquiry is a great way to get your teens to start asking questions themselves. Whether it be fact checking a “based on a true story” film or digging in deeper on a breaking news story or even getting to the bottom of a celebrity couple’s break up, always ask questions about media content to understand the source of the information, the agenda behind it, and its credibility.
- Check your bias. We all come to media content with our own beliefs, experiences, and perspective. Be aware of your own biases and reflect on how they impact your understanding and feelings about the content you consume and share.
- Balance your tech use. Show them it’s possible to take tech breaks. Sit down on the couch and read a book. Do a puzzle. Take a walk without your phone. Take your dog to the park. If you aren’t 100% dependent on technology, you’ll show your teens they don’t need to be either. Don't be afraid to discuss how hard it is to find this balance or be open about what tips you're trying to better balance your tech use.