Welcome to the Jungle

Hi there! I’m Lynn Jatania, the new MediaSmarts Parent Blogger.

The internet is one wild and woolly place. It sometimes astonishes me how far we’ve come from our own childhood – days when we wrote programs in BASIC on our TI-99 and saved them on cassette tapes, and our modem made a cool whoo-eee sound while preparing to tie up our single phone line for the next three hours. We were a long way from the connectivity and social media sites that are second nature to our own children.

I joined my first online bulletin board back in 1987 – yes, they did have PCs back then – and I was the first of all my friends to have email. I started writing online way back in 1998, when the internet was a young, green meadow and everyone knew everyone else, and I’ve been blogging since 2004.

But the birth of my kids slowed down my ability to keep up with the latest tech, and now my own children are way ahead of me. I didn’t join Facebook until everyone else already had, and Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat still befuddle me a little bit. I clung to my old candy bar phone – which couldn’t even send text messages! – until long after everyone else started thinking that actually using your phone to call people seemed quaint and old fashioned.

So now here we are – I have two new teens (one 14, one almost 13) and a nine-year-old, all of whom roll their eyes when I want to carefully weigh the pros and cons before letting them watch that hot new Netflix show. We thought long and hard about cell phones, despite claims that “everyone” at school already had one. And we’re still struggling to figure out how to make our kids into responsible people online – what are the rules when it comes to how they will use technology, present themselves on social media, or consume online content? It’s a whole new generation of parenting where we’re cutting fresh ground in unknown lands.

At our house, we try to strike a balance between introducing our kids to technology and content as appropriate, but not sheltering them from the world either. It seems critical in today’s society that they learn – while they are still at home and still willing to take our advice – how to be responsible adventurers into this wild new world. We’re all learning together, figuring out slowly what works for us and what doesn’t.

It’s fascinating to me that one of my major sources of help on this journey is the internet itself – I turn to my peer groups online when we need to set a new boundary or deal with a new technology. So I’m hoping this column provides a great place for parents to gather, discuss and share what’s working for them. As parents, we can work as a team to become the navigators our kids need.