A few weeks ago I submitted an article to a parenting magazine. In the article I tried to motivate parents to try out IM on their kids, suggesting that by actually using the technology, we could better understand the online world of our kids. I thought the idea was novel. I thought I was adding something new to the shared parenting toolbox. The response I received from the editor both confused and dismayed me. He said the idea had already come and gone. Parents already know this stuff and could I please submit an article on the newest security software.
So here's my question...are we there yet? Do most parents actually know about the technology and feel comfortable using it to connect to their kids? Does the giddiness I still feel as I occassionally IM my 13 year old or get a new Facebook friend mark me as a "has been"? Does my publisher have a rude awakening in store as my books aren't even on the market yet? Do I really have to feel like I am, once again, too far behind my teenagers' technology to even know that I am so very far behind?
Well, here's what I think. I think we have definitely become more confortable with our kids' technology. Look at the way IMSpeak has infiltrated our culture. One of my favorite commercials is the mom who is yelling at her daughter about phone minutes. She flawlessly (well until she gets really mad) uses IMspeak while the English translation is captioned underneath. What a cool mom. And IMspeak isn't the only way we are getting used to the technology. I am getting more and more MySpace "friend requests" from my actual friends. Now, granted, they probably don't know how "not cool" they look with only five friends, but the point is, they are online and they have their kids in their "Top 8" .
So, I do think we are getting comfortable with the basic technology--the technology that has helped our kids move, fundamentally, to technology-mediated-communication. The real question, however, is not do we use the technology, but how is the technology actually impacting our kids. Sure, we can figure out how to logon, but do we really know how IM changes the way our kids relate to one another? We might look at our kids' MySpace or Facebook page, but do we really comprehend how the pictures and the manufactured image impact how they act at school? When it gets down to it, these are the important questions. Its more than knowing how to talk IM, trying the texting option on a cell phone or deciding how to "keep our kids safe" by using new-fangled software. Its about the impact. And the only way to understand the impact is to keep talking to our kids--keep asking them about how their technology changes them.
So, back to the question. Are we there yet? Well, to those who think my ideas were out of date, I think we have a ways to go.