Shawn Douglas

Thursday - Feb 23, 2012

Children on the InternetEarlier this month news broke of parent Tommy Jordan and his somewhat unorthodox method of dealing with his daughter’s disobedience in the online realm. Jordan’s daughter, Hannah, reportedly used vulgarity on Facebook to talk poorly about her family. In response, Jordan lectured his daughter and then shot his daughter’s laptop nine times with a pistol. Additionally, he recorded the “lecture” and posted it to his daughter’s Facebook page as part of her punishment.

Jordan has since defended his actions, stating “you raise your children however you want.”

“As long as they turn out well in the end, then our jobs as parents was well done,” he added.

Despite a fair amount of support, there are still many who oppose Jordan’s discipline methods. And from that disagreement comes a few interesting points that apply to parents with kids learning to use the Internet.

1. Compared to their kids, parents need to be as knowledge if not more knowledgeable about technology and social media. If parents know significantly less, they risk not being able to set prudent household policies and being less involved with their kids’ development in utilizing online environments.

Jordan supporter Samantha Radecki hints at this, stating on her opinion blog that parents don’t have the same level of control over their kids due to technological advances.

“Fifteen years ago, when a home telephone was the only way to keep in contact, it was easy for parents to monitor their kid’s activities,” said Radecki. “Parents today have to be up to date on using social media websites, cell phones, email and everything else in order to keep track of their kids like they used to.”

This easily leads into point two, which is…

2. Parents must be less fearful for and more supportive of children who wish to explore and search for information online. If parents are “introducing children to online environments through a len[s] of fear” as author Daniel Donahoo says, their “need to control, interject and govern” what their kids do online will limit the learning development of their children.

That view may seem to oppose the first point Radecki makes about monitoring what kids are doing online, but it truly doesn’t. Rather, a parent who knows how to use social media and other Internet technology not only relates better to their child, but also makes more intelligent household Internet policies, which can be created without the fear factor. That parent can sit down and explain what cyber-bullying is and why passwords shouldn’t be shared, all the while encouraging healthy online search habits. “Children supported to explore and search for information online will actually be better equipped to manage and avoid inappropriate content,” said Donahoo.

Looking at how Tommy Jordan handled the situation with his daughter’s Facebook postings in light of these two points seems extreme. While we don’t know all of the circumstances that led up to him shooting bullets through his daughter’s laptop, it’s easy to wonder if there was a better way to handle it.

When he defended his actions, he said that he didn’t have his daughter close her Facebook account because he’s an avid user himself and can empathize with the thought of losing years of memories. There are additional reasons to believe Jordan isn’t completely tech ignorant, leading me to believe that there was still the opportunity for him to spend productive time with his daughter on how to better use social networking. Instead he chose to shoot bullets through her laptop.

In the end, he’s at least partially right: parents more or less have the right to raise their children how they wish. However, there seems to be enough scientific evidence to show some methods are more productive than others. When it comes to raising a child in a tech-laden world, isn’t it more responsible to understand how that tech works and to spend time with the child creating a healthier, more meaningful view of the Internet and what it offers?

Photo via Oleg1975, Flickr Creative Commons