As a parent or teacher you have two choices:
• One, you can put your head in the sand and lock your child away until s/he is 21.
• Or make 2013 the year that you are going to become as technology savvy as your children or the learners you teach.
You can't stop a Tsunami!
In the good old days although we as youths might have rebelled it was generally accepted that Parents and Teachers knew more than we did about most things. It was easy to bring up children on a "need to know" basis.
Today, with absolutely everything being available just a few clicks away our youth who are not afraid of technology are accessing all sorts of information which may be useful, true, harmful, or just plain nonsense.
Banning access to the internet and/or social media does not work. Forbidden fruit is always sweeter.
As adults we have the responsibility to guide our children on how to evaluate the information they are accessing and appropriate social media etiquette. If we provide our children with cellphones, tablets and laptops we have the right to monitor what they are using this technology for. In the same way your employer has the right to monitor your use of company equipment. In both cases there is however a fine line between invasion of privacy and exercising your authority.
Children and teens will always experiment and push the boundaries, which is their right and responsibility to ensure that they grow up as well rounded and well informed adults who can make good choices. In families where each individual has learned to care for and respect others they will apply the same values when using Social Media. Yes, they will make mistakes and at times be inappropriate but they will have the skills to apologise and rectify them with grace.
It is no longer an option to be "technologically challenged". Schools are increasingly using technology in the classrooms, text books are moving to electronic format (at least they won't be dumped in warehouses or on river banks), print media is disappearing at an alarming rate and managing our banking by cellphone or the internet is the way most of us pay our bills.
I was blown away by this amazing story of how Illiterate Ethiopian Children who came across 2 sealed boxes of Tablets managed to work out how to use them, how to change the settings and even to teach themselves English.
If you are overwhelmed by all the Social Media hype and don't know where to start here is a brief overview of the most popular ones.
This is where people share personal information and stories including pictures of families, friends, events, funnies, quotes, videos etc. You need to be 14 to have a Facebook account so if you have a child under that age who says they are on FB they are lying about their age!
If you have a business to consumer business a Facebook page is great for keeping in touch.
LinkedIn is where you will share your professional profile. If you are looking for a jobs or to hire someone, promote your business or to join a discussion group on topics that interest you this is where you need to be.
Twitter / Twitter Chats
For me, Twitter is the window to the world. It's so educational, fascinating, interesting but can be (pretty, very, extremely...) distracting.
In 140 characters your "tweet" enables you to invite people to visit your website, buy your products, share a quote, world news, sport, articles, links to your social media and much more. (This last sentence is 156 characters so it gives you a good idea how concise you need to be.)
was initially started for personal use where you have virtual pin boards where you pin anything that you find interesting on the web. For example if you are planning your wedding you can create boards of everything to do with weddings, teachers share learning tools, you can pin all your favourite foods and recipes etc. They have now introduced Pinterest for business too where you can share your products and other information.
Google+ / Google Hangouts
Most of us know about using Google to find information on the web. However that is just a teensy bit about what you can do with Google. If you don't have a Gmail account get one now. It is free and having a Google account has so many benefits. Google Calendars which send you free SMS reminders, consolidate all your different e-mail accounts to come into Gmail and go out through GMails and easily sort them via the labels.
Google + lets you create circles of friends, family, business associates etc and you can "hangout" with your circles using the Google Hangouts. It is not as yet very popular in South Africa but is widely used in other parts of the world.
You can use your mobile phone to tell your friends where you and what you are up to. For example if you are at a coffee shop you can let them know so they can join you if you are near them.
Instagram is a free photo sharing social media platform which lets you take pictures and instantly share them to Instagram users and other social networks. Great if you are travelling and want to share a phone pic of something you have seen or perhaps you are at a conference and you want to share with your colleagues.
Mxit (any Mobile phone), Whatsapp (Smartphones) and BBM (for Blackberry phones) are instant messaging programmes which are free and therefore very popular with children and teens. Parents are also using these products to stay in contact with their children.
There are several other Social Media networks that you can explore but the above are the most popular. Master a couple of them and you will be able to communicate with your children in their language and keep an informed eye on what they are up to.
If you would like to read more about South Africa and the use of social media and mobiles particularly with regard to our younger generation read this report - South African mobile generation - A Study on South African young people on mobiles.
So let's make 2013 the year when we are all going to become techno-savvy.