Throughout history, there have been several versions of the family and different models of relating with one another. The latest version is the family 2.0.
New technologies, new family paradigms
Technology has transformed the way in which parents and children communicate and understand each other. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, children before the 2.0 era were from another childhood. The worst punishment before the digital invasion was being prohibited from going outside. The center of relations was on the street corner where the plans were decided, love blossomed and one found out about what was going on with the neighbors.
That environment was finite and limited—an exclusively physical environment. The family 2.0 has created new environments with infinite possibilities of relating and communicating with any human being on any part of the planet and through many different channels.
Communications have also changed
Even punishments have had to be reinvented. Being confined inside no longer dissuades children, rather it is their center of leisure, relations, activities and even the latest news is through their devices. For that reason, the worst punishment is separating them from their cell phone.
The new technologies have transformed the way of communicating between parents and children
In the case of the non-digital generation (people who weren't born with technology, but have had to adapt to it), communication with parents and the environment was direct and verbal, and occasionally over the phone.
The new technologies have transformed the way of communicating between parents and children. For any parent of the native generation, it is simpler to talk with their children online than offline.
Moreover, lots of knowledge that traditionally was transmitted in the family environment and later at school has moved online. The acronym PLE, (Personal Learning Environment), describes the new learning environments, such as the “group of tools, sources of information, connections and activities that each person uses assiduously to learn”.
These spontaneous environments to access information, not always exact or reliable, but decisively influence the natives, creating an opinion and influencing their behavior, as much or more than the family itself.
The family photo album
Family photo albums have become a vintage item. Who needs them with so many multi-media files? The non-native generation tell stories of their childhood through black and white prints, and others in color, via some moments that were worthy of being immortalized: vacations by the sea, the first day of school, first riding a bike, birthdays and first communions. No big deal.
Any digital native already has complete images from their intrauterine life and thousands of images from each year of their life. This is true because they are born surrounded by cameras, first those of their family and closest circle, later those of their classmates and friends, and also people who do not belong to their circle.
Technologies have converted the life of each child into “The Truman Show,” allowing parents to broadcast the life and achievements of their offspring practically live. One’s life story is now a complete digital story where a digital identity is built, which does not always correspond to reality, and whose repercussions have not been taken into consideration in most cases.
It’s no longer enough to immortalize moments, it’s about making the rest of the world participate in those moments thanks to social media, without many times being aware of the repercussions those moments may have in the lives of a minor.
This over-exposure, this digital footprint that parents build without the consent of their children, should start to be analyzed, taking into consideration the repercussions it may have on children in terms of their safety, privacy and future.
As they grow, children produce and reproduce their own biographic story. Their peers also participate in this story, unfortunately sometimes to contaminate it, and corrupt it through cyberbullying, sexting, grooming—words that didn’t exist with other generations. Threats are no different than they were in the 70’s, 80's and 90’s, but they undeniably come through other means.
Bullies have always existed, what has changed is their capacity to impact victims. Previously, it was limited to school hours or after school; now, bullying has evolved online to any time of day and anywhere. Bullying continues and has the capacity to spread thanks to social media.
Even popularity has changed neighborhoods, and now resides on social media where the followers, likes and RT are what mark the distance between the most popular and least cool of the group. Some experts have called this the “egosystem”, like a construction of the ego, mainly based on the degree of acceptance and popularity that teens are capable of achieving online.
Real risks in a virtual world
In the past, parents have always known how to protect their children from dangers deriving from physical environments. For example, everyone knew that in order to ride a bicycle, it had to be done safely, and thus, it was necessary to purchase a complete safety kit before the child even got up on the bike. Parents accompanied them until they were prepared to ride by themselves.
What happens when children are given online access? Is everyone sure that their equipment is sufficiently protected? Are children accompanied until they learn to browse safely and responsibly.
Perhaps technology has evolved much faster than people’s capacity to understand these new threats that emerge from digital environments and directly impact children.
Re-educating ourselves so that we can educate
This is possibly the most important of the premises. We are perhaps leaving these digital natives hung out to dry in a digital world in which they set themselves up to be experts in the use, but not the abuse of technologies.
It is important to point out that digital native does not mean digital competent. Several studies, including “Net Children Go Mobile - Risk and opportunities online and the use of mobile devices among Spanish minors (2010-2015)” have expressed this differentiation, indicating the enormous differences that natives have in terms of the safe and responsible use of their devices.
Parents are responsible for ensuring their childrens’ safety, and not just in the physical environment. They must assume that, as technology advances, risky experiences advance in parallel.
In the advent of new technologies, new challenges are posed to families:
- Parents should acquire competencies in creating technological environments that include the main safety measures, like antivirus, multiple sessions, locking screens, parental control, etc.
- They should also know where and how their children move about online, periodically monitoring their digital identity, and being alert of the minor’s behavior in order to be able to early detect any risky situation.
- They should know how to negotiate agreements in terms of the use of new technologies, know the main risks and transmit guidelines of safe and responsible use, in addition to the most effective responses to threats that the minor may find.
For several years, BBVA has been hosting family seminars to raise awareness about cybersecurity with the objective of promoting “safe digital experiences” for the entire family. From that experience, we encourage all families to learn to live together with technology, to know its risks, and to be trained in safely and responsibly using them.
Get educated so you can educate —this is the new challenge for digital families.