The Digitally Aware Parent (DAP): A Battle We Can’t Win Alone
I like to think of myself as web and social media savvy. I do it for a living. I keep track of new innovation and technology that affects my marketing and public relations (social media) work. In this, I feel I do a fairly effective job. When it comes to my kids’ use of these tools however, I feel like I’m always playing catch-up. I know I’m not alone and with the help of my friends at Enough Is Enough, who tirelessly try and set the standard for Internet and social media accountability and education, we have decided to launch this blog column to help those, like me, who are trying to become Digitally Aware Parents (DAP).
I have five kids from the ages of 27 down to 11 and I’ve seen a lot over the years. Some I’d like to forget. I’ve witnessed how the Internet has segued from a vital and exciting educational tool to a landing strip (excuse the pun) for predators and pornographers. I’ve watched as kids have stumbled into instant access to some of the most hardened and graphic images we could have ever imagined. I’ve watch online predators pray on their short term naivety. Short-termed because once they’ve been exposed they become savvy in a world we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. Sodom used to be a city. Now it’s available visually on our laptops, our tablets, our netbooks and our kids’ phones. From streaming porn to sexting, trying to raise a child today in a world devoid of their exposure to adult and unseemly content has become nearly impossible. If you think you’ve conquered this – and I’ve been there – you’re wrong. But I refuse to give up.
Lord knows we’ve tried. We’ve put filters and accountability software on our computers only to now have to deal with a new generation of kids who spend more time on their phones, tablets and Facebook than the home computer we’ve so carefully placed in a public place so we could supervise them. I’ve seen prostitutes and porn actors become revered celebrities. I’ve seen evidence of young girls trained at an early age on the very adult and pornographic ways of making their boyfriends happy without losing their virginity. We’ve watched young pre-teen girls send sexual images to boys and the boys texting their aroused responses. It’s an unsavory topic and frankly, one that makes me cringe daily. But it’s real and like the pornography that pervades our society – unavoidable.
So how do we combat all that is assaulting our family’s senses and morality? I would ask you start by viewing Internet Safety 101 produced by Enough Is Enough. It’s a fantastic and in-depth guide to educating parents on what’s out there, what to avoid and how to arm our families with the facts. It’s not a simple world anymore and has become almost a full time job to comprehend and combat.
What I hope to do in this column is provide personal experience and an insight from someone who uses these tools for good (and a living) while attempting to protect his kids from the bad and ugly. From texting and Facebook to Twitter and YouTube, this column will provide an assist for those, who like me, are doing everything they can to become “DAPer” – in a good way.
There are things I’m going to share here that are ugly, starling, and yes, sometimes amusing. But the bottom line is this. If we don’t share our experiences, we’re doomed to wonder who and what else is out there. There is no shame in admitting we’ve sometimes failed and at times fallen asleep at the media wheel. There is only shame in doing nothing at all. We owe ourselves to be educated and in a defensive and informed posture with one big goal that EIE has stood for since its inception – to protect our kids.
I look forward to sharing my insight and experiences and hearing more about yours. I don’t have all the answers. You already know you don’t. Let’s become “DAPer” together.
Mark Gilman is a Senior Vice President for a Detroit area marketing, video and public relations agency and an advisory board member of Enough Is Enough. A former reporter, radio talk show host and corporate communications executive, Mark now provides marketing and social media strategy for companies and non-profits across the country. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org