By Michaela Kron
Ten years ago, Stacey DeWitt founded Sandy Springs-based Connect With Kids (CWK) Network, a video news-gathering organization focused on issues affecting children and dedicated to helping parents and teachers raise children with character and resiliency. Since then, DeWitt has traveled all over the country to deliver multimedia presentations to parents and educators.
DeWitt stayed close to home recently for a presentation called “Parenting in the New Millennium: Be the Coach, Compass, Connection” to the North Perimeter Optimist Club at its weekly meeting, held at the Campbell-Stone North Apartments on Carpenter Drive in Sandy Springs.
DeWitt, who has a 14-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter, spoke about parenting in the context of the role of technology, particularly the Internet, in adolescent life. She maintained that while many parents and grandparents are not necessarily familiar with the technology used by teens, they must use the values they know to guide the younger generation.
“What we do understand is life,” DeWitt said. “We need to teach them how to apply the life skills that we know in a world of high-tech communication.”
She emphasized the importance of ethics as a foundation for children as they grow older. “Common sense, resiliency, a good code of ethics will get you a lot farther than a Ph.D. in life,” the lawyer and TV journalist said. “In order to be a happy, well-functioning, productive adult, kids need to have a core system of values — have a core confidence — that will allow them to navigate a pretty complex world.”
DeWitt’s presentation featured two CWK Network video clips that discussed the dangers the Internet can pose to teenagers and addressed issues such as plagiarism, cyber-bullying and pornography.
In addition, she spoke about social networking Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace.
“It is a social phenomenon,” she said.
She stressed that parents must monitor how often their children use technology at home. “We have to begin to set limits and boundaries when it comes to access.”
The presentation resonated with many members of the Optimist Club, particularly those with grown children and grandchildren.
“I liked the fact that it was research-based, it was relevant, it was real life. It was something that we all could relate to,” said member Sarah Moore, who has two teenage grandchildren. “It was not new information, but it made me think about it in a new way.”
New club member Gwen Gable said the information from DeWitt about virtual communication among adolescents was “very enlightening and shocking.”
“When we were growing up, we automatically relied on face-to-face interaction, and the concept that this has replaced one-on-one and face-to-face communication is a shocking thing,” Gable said.
DeWitt said parenting “is not a competitive sport” and should not be a popularity contest — advice that matched the approach Bill Comer, the program chairman at the Optimist Club, took in raising his own children.
“You don’t want to be their best buddy,” he said. “You want to be their mentor. You want to be their guiding light.”