Today’s Parents: Pioneers in the Digital Age
Children’s digital footprints are written long before they can walk and the parents who create those footprints are already shaping how a child will engage with their digital selves. Because of this reality, it’s vital that parental guidance begin early and with intention.
Children who are “growing up digital” (and pretty much all children in North America are growing up digital, despite the great divide between the haves and the have-nots) should learn healthy concepts of their relationship to the digital world in the same way they learn healthy concepts of the physical one.
There are numerous books and expert opinions about how to raise a child in the physical world. It is pretty clear that it’s ok to let a child fall down frequently when learning to walk but not ok for a 2 year old to cook with oil. Or at all.
But raising children in our newly created digital world is not so easy.
Often, today’s parents are working out challenges as pioneers in a new digital frontier without guides or mentors and with a limited sense of the topography. There is no wise grandparent to call and ask what’s normal behavior or what age is appropriate for an Instagram profile. Everyone is figuring these things out for the first time and it’s pretty scary and frustrating on the whole.
We’re on our own to find our way and the decisions we make today will collectively shape the generation we’re tasked with raising.
We do this through purposeful engagement. The parents and teachers helping to guide a child’s development need to engage with the child’s digital realities and teach them concepts there just like they would the physical world. Side-by-side guidance in all aspects of development. Ask questions, offer insight and advice, and don’t be afraid to search for answers to new problems.
One of the biggest hurdles for many parents and some teachers I work with is to approach digital media as just another environment. It isn’t the Black Forest. Children are doing the same things in the world today that they always have, it just looks different. And, like any other environment, it can be positive or negative. Just like the physical world.
We have to help kids as they make their way because we are their wise wizards. We don’t have to know all the answers, but we have to be ready to google the questions.