Expert Shares How To Be The Strongest Voice In Gen Z, Alpha Child Despite SocMed Influenceby Dahl D. Bennett .
As they raise digital natives, parents of the Z and Alpha generations sometimes find themselves in a tug-of-war with social media and the internet. No matter how present they seem to be in their children’s lives—especially tweens and teens– they can’t help but worry that platforms such as YouTube and Tiktok are having a stronger influence over their kids’ lives and that the content they watch may shape their values and beliefs the wrong way.
Accept that children today are ‘essentially digital natives’
Such apprehension is valid. “Whether we, parents, like it or not, the internet adds to the voices that play in our kids' heads,” says Dr. Gail Reyes-Galang, chair of the Family Studies program of Miriam College and current associate director of the Center for Peace Education (CPE) at the same school and Smart Parenting columnist.
“Unlike previous generations where children's behavior was mostly influenced by their parents, siblings, classmates, and teachers, today's tweens and teens are likewise growing up in a digital environment that is affecting every facet of their lives,” she adds.
'If we truly care about our children's internet safety, then we must be aware of the consequences of being indifferent to the techno-world they live in.
Enumerating the biggest threats to the children of this generation, Dr. Reyes-Galang includes cyberbullying, sexual predators and sexually implicit movies and videos, scams that fish for personal information, extortion, disinformation, among others.
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While, surely, there is a whole generation separating parents from their kids, this doesn’t mean children should be left to their own devices and navigate online content on their own all the time.ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
In fact, making an effort to understand what is happening online is now more crucial than ever. “We, parents, will need to accept that our children are essentially digital natives. As such, they are confident and competent in using technology. This is the world they're born in and though it is different from our world, it need not be hostile,” says Dr. Reyes-Galang, who is herself a mom to four children belonging to the Z and Alpha generations.
Generation Z or Gen Z is the generation born from the late 1990's to early 2010's. The Alpha generation is born from mid 2010 to mid 2020.
“If we truly care about our children's internet safety, then we must be aware of the consequences of being indifferent to the techno-world they live in,’ she adds.
Be wary of ‘adultism’
But the question is, amidst all the content online, how can parents remain to be a strong voice that play in their children’s hearts and minds without imposing their own opinion or truths on them?
According to Dr. Reyes-Galang, parents should be wary of acts of adultism or being prejudiced or discriminating against young people because of their age.
“As a parent, I recall how casual dinner conversations turn sour when our children call us out for being biased. Not wanting to be outdone, we then proceed to ‘educate’ our kids on why their views are unacceptable. Such acts of adultism are sure conversation stoppers,” she says.
'The world is not black and white... so avoid preaching, offering unsolicited advice, moralizing, labeling, and blaming.
While she adds that, no doubt, tweens and teens of today are moving towards being more “woke” and that some of their views may come as a ‘shock’ to parents because of the influences of peers and social media, this gives parents more reason to make an effort to keep the channels of communication open.CONTINUE READING BELOWwatch now
“Keep in mind that tweens and teens still need help from their parents because biologically, the rational part of their brain is not fully developed yet. This does not mean, however, that we can impose our values on them. Parents need to find a way to get their messages across without sounding preachy,” she says.
Be humble, learn from each other
In finding the best approach parents can use to guide their tweens and teens in this digital age, Dr. Reyes-Galang sought her 25 year old daughter’s insights and found a middle ground through these tips.
1. Hear them out.
This means listening to understand and resisting the urge to interrupt when they say something you disagree with.
2. Acknowledge that this is all new to you.
Having a beginner's mind means being curious and eager to learn more about the world of your child.
'When kids see that you are humble enough to admit that you can also make mistakes, the more eager they are to share things with you.
3. Be non-judgmental.
The world is not just black or white. In fact, we all know by now that the world is constantly changing and that we, too, are evolving. So, avoid preaching, offering unsolicited advice, moralizing, labeling, and blaming.
4. Express your fears using the i-message.
Parent may approach the conversation with their child this way: "Whenever you play Valorant, I feel worried that you will pick up violent behavior. Could you tell me more about why you like that game?"
Or if you are unsure about your child's friend, "I feel uncomfortable whenever you hang out with XX. You told me he is gay and I'm not sure if I am okay with that. Can you tell me more about him?ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
5. Work together.
When you see sexually implicit videos and films, instead of telling them to close their eyes, process the content in a calm way. Explain misconceptions that will help them realize why kids should be careful in watching those materials.
6. Show humility and gratitude.
When kids see that you are humble enough to admit that you can also make mistakes, the more eager they are to share things with you. When they do, show appreciation for trusting you with ideas that may all be so new to you.
Ultimately, parents must learn how to be patient if they want their kids to listen to them, points out Dr. Reyes-Galang. “Your kids are not perfect, and neither are you. Like you, they will make bad judgments but trust that with the values you've inculcated in them, they will hear your voice, too. before deciding on things for themselves.”
Dr. Gail Reyes Galang is chair of the Family Studies program of Miriam College where she also teaches under the Department of Psychology. She is currently the associate director of the Center for Peace Education. Follow her on Instagram @gailfrancesgalang