What Parents Can Learn from Their Tech-Savvy Teens

Who can teach tech these days, better than children? Kids are practically born with a wireless mouse in their hands. It starts in the early years with electronic educational games that teach kids their numbers and colors, states and presidents.

Next, the family PC replaces these "toys." By middle school, each child needs his or her own laptop. When kids hit the teen years it’s all about smartphones and tablets, complete with expensive data plans and unlimited texting.

While most of us still have nicer cars than our kids, our young technocrats are loaded to the gills when it comes to technology, and it’s all we can do to keep up. Much as we hate to admit it, our children are often more tech savvy than we are, and at times we have to turn to them for help. Turns out, in addition to doing chores, teenagers have another useful purpose: to teach parents technology.

Weaned on technology

As recently as 2008, teens were considered less tech-savvy than their parents. A mere three years later, today’s teens have been labeled the iGeneration, characterized "by their technology and media use, their love of electronic communication, and their need to multitask."

Teens have surpassed all other age groups in their use of connected devices (e.g., smartphone, Xbox, iPod, and laptop). While the rest of us have adopted technology as a convenient new tool to make life easier, today’s teens have embraced it as a way of life.

So who better to teach tech than teens?

  • Teens are naturally adept at using computer interfaces and have a knack for troubleshooting (a skill that eludes many adults who freeze when confronted with a technology glitch).

  • Perhaps the most important lesson teens can teach us is technical jargon. For example, dropping articles is absolutely critical. Never ever precede your reference to a social networking site with the word "the" as in "the Facebook" or "the Twitter." Doing this is tantamount to admitting that you save plastic margarine tubs and listen to Linda Ronstadt.

  • Teens speak the language of texting. It’s full of funky abbreviations and colloquialisms that will serve you well to learn. (Ask your children what AITR and PAL mean... if they won’t give up the goods, you can translate text slang here.)

Throw your teen a bone

Getting teens to teach parents technology is a great way to empower them. Here are some things that they can help you with:

  • Set the privacy settings on your Facebook page.

  • Download a teen curfew app.

  • Install your wireless printer.

  • Set up your DVR to record your favorite series.

  • Disable your Bluetooth when around unsecured public Wi-Fi (and make sure they know the importance of doing this at the same time).

  • Get all of those icons off the screen of your Mac and into folders.

  • Explain the difference between upload and download.

  • Delete that old email account that has been co-opted by phishing scammers.

Savvy is as savvy does

Just because teens know so much about technology, it doesn’t mean they possess the judgment required to always use it wisely and safely. Parental support based on nurturing, providing guidance and the wisdom of experience will never be replaced by advances in technology.

Parents’ roles in their teens’ lives are more important than ever as they try to navigate their way through the pitfalls unique to the iGeneration. There are still a few things mom or dad can teach them when it comes to their cyber welfare.

Cyberbullying is no joke and kids need to understand how to navigate problematic social situations online. Stress related to technology overload is also on the rise. Helping a child balance screen time with sleep time is another area in which parental guidance and authority are critical.

And everyone is vulnerable to malware and hacking - teens included - so they need to protect themselves with security software.

They’ll be the ones who save the world

Though kids can offer great nuts-and-bolts technology assistance, the bigger lesson they impart is an inspirational one. For most teens, their attachment to technology is not motivated by a desire to keep up with the Joneses or to leave their folks in the dust. iGeneration teens tend to be generous with their time and enthusiastic teachers. They instinctively understand that leveraging technology is one of the main ways to improve our planet.

So look forward to your teen hanging around the house this weekend. After you have her rake the leaves off the roof, she can fix the sound on your PC... so you can watch a few of those tutorial videos.

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