As a child coming of age in the 1990s, when computers were just being introduced into classrooms, if I had a question about something I asked my mother. If she didn’t have an answer, I asked a teacher. If the teacher didn’t know, I went to the library. Now, before asking anyone anything, I search the Internet and find out for myself. Then, I fact check with trusted human sources. Your teen probably does the same thing. Why should your teenagers come to you when they can learn everything they want to know from their phones or tablets without the suspicious glare that all but says, "Why are you asking about that?" Or worse, "What are you even talking about?"
It’s a new day and age where your children can become an expert on a subject that you have never heard of in a matter of hours. So why should your teen come to you for answers? For information? Or for advice? Here's why:
The Internet can provide your teenager with knowledge. But, with the exception of specialty sites like personal growth and development or counseling resource websites, it does not always provide much insight or wisdom. Especially of the practical sort. Here is your chance to shine. You’ve taken years of personal and vicarious experiences and compiled them in a way that your teen and the Internet likely haven’t thought of before. You can give your child something novel, a perspective that he or she hasn't seen. It may or may not be what your children were looking for, but it will at least have some meaning to them.
Nothing you or your teen does on the computer or on the Web is anonymous. But the illusion of anonymity helps your teen feel comfortable researching and learning about topics they may feel embarrassed to come to you with. The days of having “the talk” and leaving the subject alone have rapidly dissipated into a constant conversation about all of the hurdles a teen has to traverse to stay healthy and sane. Make sure your teen knows there is no subject too squeamish or topic too taboo to discuss with you. And even if it is, pretend it’s not. Your kids can smell fear. And at the first sniff of judgment they’ll run to the safety zone and rely on some other pseudo-anonymous stranger to resolve their burning curiosities.
Google and other Internet search sites provide a broad spectrum of information and experiences for your teen. They can be drawn to information of an emotional and psychological nature via this impersonal forum because they can relate to the experiences of others who share their lives over the Web. As a parent of the previous generation, your experience can seem, and likely is a bit dated and out of touch. So get in touch. Get on Google and see what your kids are being exposed to. For example, find out what a meem is, and why it’s so mesmerizing. Look at your son's or daughter’s Twitter feed or Facebook timeline and see what they are, and are not, talking about. Relate to her issues on her level. Show him that you understand at least a little bit of the world he lives in. And trust me, it’s not the world you grew up in.
The days of furious debate and honorable trivia are long gone. Now, any slight stumper results in the dubious utterance “Google it.” Why try and figure out the answer on your own, or wait 20 minutes in conversation? Go straight to your handheld electronic brain and have it spit the answer out. This may confuse or annoy your generation, but your kids don’t know the difference. This is the world you brought them into and are raising them in. You can choose to accept change as it occurs and make sure to adapt with the shifting times and attitudes.
Your place in your child’s life may evolve as the culture and society does, but the connection and guidance cannot afford to be eroded. Especially on your end. When your teen turns his back and types into his device for the answer, keep talking. Eventually, he’ll learn it’s easier, more efficient and often more beneficial to listen once than scroll through endless pages of information overload.
Once your post-adolescent has listened to you, take a breather and listen to her. Let her tell you about her life, the challenges and triumphs she faces and how she prefers to spend her time. Instant access to everyone she knows and all the information she can handle may seem like an ideal world. But I bet your teen wants more intimate contact with her peers and the world just as much as you want it with her. Encourage moments of bonding without the browsers, screens, apps, updates and links that are blocking you out.