When it comes to tech talks, different ages have different needs.

Once upon a time, there was an evening ritual—dinner table conversations about the day, discussions of homework requirements for the evening, nighttime television turned off, and telephones that went unanswered. 

For many parents this seems like a very long time ago... a time when we knew, and understood, what our kids were doing. But today is the age of Google, with so much information, both helpful and dangerous, at our fingertips. 

How are our children able to responsibly navigate all of this information? 

How are we supposed to talk with our kids about managing a constant digital connection?

How to Manage those Difficult Conversations

Not to worry, here are a few approaches to help you manage these conversations, tailored specifically for your child's age range.

Kids Under 8:

This is your innocent child, under 10, newly interested in those fun video games, your cell phone and online games. It’s all magical, educational, and addictive! 

This is the time that both of you need to learn how to set boundaries

Both of you can get accustomed to setting limits for time, content, and accessibility while your child is still little—and still likes you! 

Chat with your child about limits that apply to all family members, so there is an expectation that both rights and responsibilities will expand as they grow older.

The Tweenage Years, Ages 9-12:

Your sweet child became a “tween” somewhere between 9 and 12 years old, crossing into a sea of raging hormones, self-consciousness and impulsive decision making, often guided by similarly-minded friends.

And this is also about the time that many kids get their first smart phone

Off to middle school, they believe they are mature, all the while straddling the relative safety of childhood and the risks and adventures that come with adolescence.

These changes make our tweens emotionally and physically vulnerable to people and temptations in their environment. In this attention-seeking phase of life, they crave approval from peers and can often succumb to foolish peer pressure or become targets of bullying, teasing, and invitations of dangerous behavior. 

Often lacking emotional acuity and personal boundaries, tweens may have difficulty determining who is a trustworthy friend and who is a mean-spirited foe. 

Unfortunately, tweens often end up connecting with those who take advantage of their need for attention. 

It's common for kids in this age group to isolate a bit from their parents into their “private space,” making it hard for parents to accurately assess their friendships, their cyber use, and their mood. 

Teenagers Aged 13+:

Tweens develop a certain bravado they day they turn into a teen. 

They are more tight-lipped about their feelings, school work and friends. A simple question like “How was your day?” can turn into eye-rolling and a “Don’t worry about it” response.

Timing is everything. 

Don’t jump down their throat about homework the minute they walk in the door. Remember that they are always hungry, and your offer of a snack will go far. 

Understand that they have a virtual world and internet friends that they connect with. See if they will let you play one of their online games with them. If they (likely) turn you down, at least you showed some interest in their world.

Try asking them to help set up your internet connections and teach you how to use the latest apps. And ask them to help you set up your privacy setting which broaches the subject of staying safe. 

Young teens are invincible—or so they think

You might gingerly share stories of people you know who have really gotten into some trouble by sharing compromising photos online. 

Sexually explicit photos or Instagram photos revealing potential drug or alcohol use sometimes end up on a teacher’s site or viewable by college admissions boards. Stress with them the importance of watching out for danger signs among their friends and acquaintances and how peers must be prepared to appropriately intervene.

These concerns bear repeating again and again. 

Their invincibility leads them to taking bigger risks, sharing too much, and saying things about others that just shouldn’t be said in a public forum.

Be A Good Role Model

Above all else, teach respect, safety and proper etiquette. These boundaries and manners are important to reinforce and model. You might need to think twice before posting your own questionable photos, check-ins and embarrassing pictures of yourself and your kids! 

Still have questions? Read 6 Things Kids Should Never Share on Social Media.

About Charlene Underhill Miller, PhD

Charlene Underhill Miller, PhD is a psychotherapist in Southern California with private practices in Santa Monica and Malibu. She helps parents, children, couples and individuals. A graduate of UCLA and Fuller School of Psychology, Dr. Miller also is involved in school-based education and consultation, an adjunct faculty member of the Pepperdine University Graduate School of Psychology, a wife, mother, and stepmother. 

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