First it was Minecraft and Fortnite. Then my youngest took a fancy to stunt scooters — “spots,” “ramps” and various brands and names of tricks appeared in his vocabulary, some of which were extremely hard for me to decipher. Example? Easy: try figuring out what 540 is.
Now he’s into graffiti. I hope that his “pieces”, “tags” and “burners” on the walls of derelict buildings eventually give way to the more serene realm of calligraphy and design. But for now I have to keep an eye on the “cans” and “refills” that leave a mark on my apartment too, as well as listen to my son’s reflections on various kinds of markers, dabbers and street-art styles. Lots of new words.
Sure, the best way to engage with a child and learn about their interests and problems is through joint activities. I myself love to draw, so finding a common language with my youngest isn’t hard. But that’s not always the case. The hobbies of today’s kids are often wildly different from those of their parents. And it’s not easy to free up enough time for joint activities. Stressed at work, swamped with household chores, and now my daughter sheepishly hides her iPad screen from me, on which some snazzily dressed little figures with oversized heads are prancing around.
What is it? Just some cartoon, or an online community that most certainly isn’t for kids? Asking straight out is not the best strategy. At this age, teenagers are cagey about what they’re into, even if it’s all perfectly innocent. They want to have their own secrets in an adult-free zone.
It’s a different story if you show awareness and appreciation of the topic. Gacha Life? Sure, I know all about that! (having googled it after overhearing my daughter on the phone). And that’s how we found a common language. Which led to constructive dialogue.
Where to pick up such words
In my case, the keyword came from my daughter’s own mouth. But how do you find out your child’s interests if they never mention them out loud? One way is to look at what they’ve been searching for online and research any unknown terms.
If you have access to the browser your child uses, or if they use your computer, you can simply view the browsing history. Such surveillance, of course, will be unpleasant for your offspring if you get caught doing it — and they’ll take steps to prevent it from happening again (they usually figure out things like that very quickly).
Another option is parental control software that respects your child’s privacy but can send you summarized reports about their online interests, as well as warnings if they start looking for something inappropriate. As before, you can use this information to google unknown words and use your newfound knowledge to broach the delicate subject of your child’s interests.
A third way is to read up on which kids’ searches are currently trending. For example, our Kaspersky Safe Kids report gives a rundown of the top crazes of the year. We know, of course, that your little Johnny is unique. But even the most perfect child is not immune to the lure of popular culture (admit it, neither are you).
Therefore, armed with some trending words, you’ll likely be able to peer under the hood of your child’s inner world. Even if the reply is: “You what? Gacha?! That’s for babies. I’m more into…” Now’s your chance to engage…