As a parent, it’s important to try and understand the interests and digital culture that your children are immersed in today. While each child is unique, there are some common online trends and behaviours that many kids and teens engage with regularly. Being aware of these can help you relate better to your kids and their everyday experiences. Here are some tips on how parents can understand more of their children’s digital world.
Learn About Social Media Platforms
Social media is a huge part of most kids’ social lives. Platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube are where they interact with friends, express themselves, and consume endless amounts of content. Each platform has its own features, culture and unwritten rules that may seem foreign to you. For example, TikTok is all about short videos set to music, while Instagram is focused on photos and Stories.
Spend some time familiarising yourself with the apps and social networks your child uses. Create an account, observe how it works and note the type of content that’s popular. This will give you insight into the digital spaces where your child is hanging out and what resonates with them there.
Ask Questions and Have Discussions
Don’t be afraid to ask your child questions about their online activities and interests. Make it a regular habit to have open discussions about their social media use, the content they view, who they follow, and what they like to create. Not only will this help you learn about their digital world, but it also shows your child that you care about understanding them.
Some good open-ended questions include:
- What are your favourite accounts to follow and why?
- Can you show me a popular meme or trend right now and explain why people like it?
- How do you decide if content is worth sharing with your friends?
- What do you like about (insert app/platform here)?
Really listen when your child explains things and resist the urge to judge or criticise. The goal is to foster positive dialogue where they feel comfortable telling you about their digital life.
Explore Trending Topics and Memes
The internet has created a globally connected culture where viral memes, news stories, and hashtag challenges can explode in popularity overnight. Staying aware of what is a meme and the latest viral content can help you understand your kids’ references and digital humour.
Visit sites like Know Your Meme and BuzzFeed to learn about trending memes, making a stand out meme, and challenges. Look up popular hashtags on social media to see what resonates across various platforms. Follow meme accounts to understand meme culture and formats. While silly or nonsensical at first glance, memes are an important part of digital communication and self-expression for youth today.
For example, a current meme trend is using AI chatbots to generate funny conversations. Kids share the results and riff on the absurd responses. Even if the content itself feels foreign to you as a parent, being aware of what memes and topics are circulating can lead to meaningful discussions with your child.
Join in on Trending Activities
Another way for parents to gain firsthand experience with their kids’ digital world is to participate in viral activities and challenges alongside them. When a new meme, dance trend or hashtag goes viral on TikTok or Instagram, ask your child to teach it to you or do it together. Learn the latest dances, try out photo challenges, and join in on harmless viral crazes.
Not only will this provide a fun bonding experience, but it also gives you direct insight into what engages your kids online. You may feel silly at first, but taking an active interest by participating shows your child that you care. And you may even find it entertaining! Embracing their world and showing a willingness to explore trending activities together strengthens your relationship and understanding.
Respect Their Digital Space
While monitoring your kids’ social media and internet use is understandable, it’s also important to respect their digital space as you would their physical room. Constant surveillance can hurt mutual trust and limit what your child feels comfortable sharing with you. Have open conversations about your concerns and try to reach reasonable agreements.
For example, you may request access to view their accounts and direct messages occasionally but avoid excessive monitoring. And refrain from sharing any private content or embarrassing stories from their accounts with others. Respecting privacy fosters more open and honest dialogue.
The digital world plays a pivotal role in most children’s lives today. While new apps and endless streams of memes and viral content may seem daunting as a parent, taking steps to understand this environment is hugely beneficial. An open and ongoing dialogue with your kids, plus a willingness to explore trending topics, will give you a window into their digital lives. This not only improves mutual understanding but also strengthens your parent-child relationship.