Why it's wrong & how educators and parents can fix it.
In a culture saturated with buzzwords and catchy phrases, the term "Digital Natives" has emerged as a set of adjectives to describe everyone from newborns to millennials.
The phrase first emerged in 2001 when coined by Marc Prensky in an article titled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. The article asserts that students today are all "native speakers" of the digital language of computers.
This is a clever play on words. It is also complete fiction. Seriously, ask any teacher in the trenches who's taking the time to integrate educational technology. They'll tell you time after time how surprised they are to discover how little kids actually know about online productivity and even basic functionality.
By in large, today's students are native swipers, gamers, and social media darlings. End of list. Rest assured this is not a knock on our students. They can no sooner help who they are than water can help being wet. But the fact remains, the notion of kids as digital natives is a myth.
Want more proof? Consider this:
Educators: Cultivate digital skills within the confines of your content areas. Instead of "computer time", allow kids to organically grow 21st century competencies in their pursuit of new knowledge and skills. Gone are the moments when kids should be taught things like google slides, sheets, and forms in isolation. Be the teacher who allows students to learn content and computing simultaneously. You'll find the result to be not only more gratifying, but also more purposeful. Spoon feeding tech competency is the slowest possible way we can build tech skills. Push kids to problem solve, persevere, help one another, and develop the mindset and grit they'll need for the tools that have yet to be invented.
Parents: Don't let tech put distance between you and your children. Allow it to draw you closer together. Let it be the thing that allows you to learn in tandem while pursuing curiosities and creating new things...together. When your son or daughter asks how much the earth weighs or why the sky is blue, look it up. Together! Teach your children how to search the Internet safely. Teach them how to refine their search when what they're looking for doesn't immediately make itself known. Many will be baffled to learn there is information beyond the first page of Google.
Here's a fact. We are all digital immigrants. We are all immigrants in the sense that each of us has and will be required time after time to explore and master technologies that are unfamiliar. Technology doesn't divide us according to immigrants and natives. It unites us under the same banner.
In my travels I’m frequently approached by teachers and parents with questions about parenting in an increasingly daunting digital age. It’s a tough time to parent. With that in mind, here are three things you can do immediately to increase your chances for success and decrease the likelihood your kids will find trouble online.
Google Yourself: One of the most important seeds of understanding analog parents need to plant in their tech-centric children is an awareness around their digital footprint. Your digital footprint consists of all the information about you that exists on the internet as a result of your (or your family members, friends, and acquaintances) online activity. But we’re talking about my kids here. Why do I need to Google myself? Simple; because we can’t teach what we don’t fully understand. If you’re wondering right now whether or not you even have a digital footprint, chances are, you do. Yes, even you social media holdouts and internet avoiders. Google any of the following: your full name, your full name and maiden name, your name and where you went to high school, your name and an old address, you and your spouse's’ full names together, your name and your ex’s name (yeah...I went there). In all likelihood, you’ll be shocked by what you find. Once you understand the reach of the internet and the connectivity of your relationships in the virtual space, you can then help your kids understand what’s at stake for them. Because what’s at stake is bigger than they may realize. Here are the big teaching points:
Be Vigilant and Authoritative About Tech at Night: It’s no surprise that kids are most likely to run into trouble online at the same times they’re likely to encounter it in the real world. Nighttime is when the majority of kids are most active on their devices. Consequently, it’s the time that they are most likely to make poor choices. Removing tech from bedrooms also removes the temptations. Furthermore, it’s just a healthier habit relative to sleep and readiness for the day ahead. In a 2015 study, researchers from Seton Hall uncovered some concerning behaviors:
Stay Involved. Do Your Best to Stay Current: Let me be clear...It is not our job to like what our kids like. It is our job to know what they like. Then and only then can we work to safeguard them from some of the digital pitfalls that exist online. Here are two examples that I think best illustrate why it’s important to stay current:
These tips certainly aren’t the end all be all of successful digital parenting, but they’re a good place to start. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me or someone you trust for guidance through the minefield that is digital parenting. We’re all in this together.