Net Generation Comes of Age

NetGen kids and concerned parents

Parents are puzzled and more than a little worried about their kids’ preoccupation with the virtual world.

Larry Rosen, PhD, a technology researcher and professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills says "You might peek into your kid’s room, and your kid is on MySpace and they’re talking on the phone and they’re texting and IMing and there’s music coming from the iPod-basically, you’re seeing kids who are so technologically adept that parents don’t quite know what to do about it."

Parents’ concern over their kids’ engrossment with all things tech-y and virtual is understandable considering cyber predators that stalk the web. But the web is not all bad. Just think about all the good and important information that kids – adults too – can access at a mouse click.

Helping parents deal with NetGen kids and the virtual world 

To help parents understand the virtual world, Rosen suggests going online themselves. This way, they can better "communicate with their kids about cyberspace and parent them effectively."

Rosen says parents should realize that for kids of this generation, "their online world is their social environment." NetGeners, as what Rosen calls today’s’ young people are doing online what the previous generation did at the mall or in school. Rosen says this includes flirting, and "trying out various identities."

Rosen discusses strategies for parents to help them deal with their NetGen kids, as well as web-related issues such as sexual identity formation, family functioning and blogging, from both kids’ and parents’ perspectives in his book, Me, MySpace and I: Parenting the Net Generation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)

To get parents started in their quest to be better NetGen parents to their NetGen kids, Rosen suggests doing the following:

  • Learn the technology. "Have your kid show you how MySpace works," Rosen says. "Have them show you what YouTube is. Have them work with you online a little bit. Have them feel good about their skills." This can go a long way toward helping the young person feel more at ease, and give the parent a better sense of which rules and limits might be important.
  • Place computers in a room the family frequents. "You don’t want to create a ‘techno-cocoon’ where your teen disappears into his or her bedroom and doesn’t participate in family activities," he says.
  • Plan family activities in advance and include your teen.
  • Limit your teens’ online time. Set a rule stipulating that a given amount of time on the Internet be matched by other activities-for example, an hour online for two hours spent visiting with parents or friends, reading or playing outside.
  • Monitor their activities. "Parents need to be aware of exactly what media their teens are consuming and monitor them for anything that might create discomfort or cause potential problems," says Rosen. The easiest way to do this, he says, is to maintain a line of communication that is respectful, constructive and collegial, not punitive.



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