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Observers argue that the digital revolution will have major effects on our society, including possible changes in family relations and consumer behaviour. This article describes an exploratory study that is part of the initial phase of longitudinal work on how parent-child relationships affect, and are affected by, parents’ and children’s Internet use. It contrasts with traditional parent-to-child research on consumer socialization, by examining aspects of reverse socialization.

The biggest technological change in the last five years is actually the pace of change itself, no longer measured in generations, or even years, but in months. Young people are usually at the forefront of these things, while even tech-savvy parents feel left in the dust. For instance, how many parents realize that for teens, Facebook is pretty much passé? Who knows the difference between Twitter, Tumblr and Tinder, which of these accounts their kids maintain, and what they’re posting? In my experience, the answer is often a blank stare.

Another change is immediacy, in just 15 years, phones have gone from boxes on a wall, to Star Trek-like personal communication devices, to tiny super-computers. That kind of NOW communication is why Twitter is replacing Facebook, and why Tinder (a dating app for the iPhone) is gaining popularity on OKCupid and Match.com.

Even very young kids have access to the Web, many with parents who haven’t quite realized that as electronic baby sitters go, the TV was a big, purple dinosaur. The Internet? Fire-breathing dragon. You can put up filters, but kids are going to stumble across explicit content, and as they journey through puberty, go looking for it.

The question parents need to ask themselves is How many installed filters are on  their childs’s iPhones and iPads? That’s what I thought. You might want to Google “Mobicip.”

Finally, a quick word on speed, the other big news in teen tech. Streaming high-definition content means that not only can kids watch just about every ridiculous thing imaginable (and a few really amazing ones) but they can also produce and broadcast them. They might even make a buck. This opens vast new horizons for young filmmakers and podcast stars, and new headaches for parents.

The bottom line is 21st-century parents don’t get to be technophobes or even befuddled adopters. Technology calls your child like a siren on a rocky shore. Be ready with the messages you want them to hear and the ethics you choose to guide them with wisely through those waters. You might try texting that list to them. Or perhaps a series of tweets…

By Christopher Amoah