Parents and teachers alike are responsible for sharing the world that children grow up in, and when it comes to technology this involves making some huge decisions.
But when it comes to questions involving technology and children we're still in uncertain territory. Parents and teachers can have polar opinions on the right course to take, and who are we to say who's right and wrong?
Most parents agree that children must be introduced to the digital world at some point. So how do we deal with it? When is the balance right? When is too much too much?
We're experiencing an unprecedented event here. There's no research to tell parents and educators if and what we are doing is wrong or right. Nobody knows just how our children will behave as they grow up in an increasingly digital world.
So I wanted to share some of the methods I'm resorting to as I raise my own kids in this digital age:
- Moderation must be encouraged. While we know very little about what the future will bring, we have research that can prove the effects of 'screen time'. Excessive media use can lead to problems at school, lack of attention, eating and sleeping issues as well as lack of exercise, which can lead to weight gain. I suggest monitor closely content viewed and duration on social media channels.
- Appropriate guidelines on age restrictions must be respected. The minimum age for registering for Facebook and Instagram is 13 years old. Children should not be allowed to have those accounts before the minimum age limit is reached. Yet, some kids younger than 13 may be mature enough to use technology wisely. However, we also need to teach about misrepresenting their age and identity online.
- All things digital may alter how we communicate with each other. However, I like to emphasise to my children that face-to-face relationships and conversation will always be important. Older people may argue that technology is killing our daily chats, whilst our children might argue that technology is improving them. Either way, our children will forever live in a world where we, the parents, expect verbal conversation. In future generations verbal communication may be valued even less. For now, though, it's our job to educate youngsters in good old fashioned social skills and face-to-face communication.
- Technology should not be discouraged in a home or school environment. Our children will be using technology their whole lives, at school, and later at work too. The earlier they can learn to use it safely and effectively, the better. Being a parent does not mean protecting younger generations from the digital world, but instead, helping them using it effectively and to their advantage.
- Technology is not scary. I teach my kids that it needs to be used for a) creating and b) consuming. Personally, and whenever possible, I teach them to use it mostly for creation. I must admit that this is one of the most vital distinctions concerning technology that we can teach our children. Yes, we can play video games, of course, but what about creating them? We can nose through Facebook, or instead, we could create forums and communities that serve a purpose. We can use twitter for short messages, or we can create a blog.
- As parents and teachers, we need to educate the younger generations to understand that self-confidence and one's worth has nothing to do with the number of likes and shares. It is vital for our kids to understand their self-worth must be found elsewhere: within a family context, as part of a sports team, in a classroom or in an office.
- We used to say 'You can't believe everything you read in the press'. Now we say 'You can't believe you read on the internet'. One day you may even have your kids ask you: "Is Wikipedia a reliable source for my school projects?". However, far more dangerous are the beautiful profiles some people create to represent their lives. Only happy or funny moments tend to be shared on social, trying to portray a life of joy and success. Is this a façade? Why don't we share our darkest days, when we are scared, lost or just plain doubtful? It is obvious we need to teach our pupils and kids to be more authentic. It is imperative we teach them the possible dangers of comparing themselves to the online glossy happy profiles that over populate Facebook.
Ultimately, to help our kids discovering technology and its benefits, teachers and parents need a good healthy strategy of humble empowerment. So, what's your view? Is there any other crucial strategy you think is important to add?