Helping Our Children Through the New Digital World

I was reminded the other day what a different world our children know than the world we knew as children and even than the world we know today. Karen relayed a conversation that she and our 4-year old daughter Lilia had earlier in the day. They were going through a box (yes, we still have boxes to go through even after moving in six months ago) of pictures and Karen paused to show Lilia a picture of me twenty-plus years younger, thinner, with more hair. Karen explained the photo was taken when we were traveling together in college. When Lilia asked “why aren’t you in the picture, Mommy?” Karen explained that she was the one who took the photo. Without skipping a beat, Lilia asked why we didn’t just take a “selfie” together so we would both be in the picture.

Lilia’s frame of reference is now – she has no sense of 35mm film, no sense of waiting for developing, no sense of an object that can only takes pictures and can’t call people, play games or surf for answers. A child’s reference point, the way they categorize and place things into reality, the way they see the world is much different than ours. I get that. I understand how technology has made these generations of digital natives different in many ways. Seeing this develop over the years through my lens as an educator has been interesting, academic, and very objective. I have watched hundreds of students tackle both the uncertainties of adolescence together with the uncertainties of socializing through technology. Technology has definitely changed the way we all communicate and this has allowed for both positives and negatives in child development. I don’t plan to discuss the virtues and vices of i-pads, cell phones, social media and the like but to remind us all that children, no matter how young or how old, need our guidance.

As a parent I am now seeing first-hand the difference in my children’s view of the world. My view of how technology is being used by children ages 4 through 15 (the age span of my own children) has become subjective and personal. Regardless of the age it is Karen’s and my job to be aware of how our children are using technology. As parents we need to help our children negotiate this new world of information and these new forums of social interaction. We are constantly seeing new software, new apps and new devices being developed that are creating our children’s worldview and their reference points. It takes both time and energy for parents and adults to understand and become aware of these new technologies that are creating our children’s world.

I think we can all agree that children, from Pre-School through High School, need guidance. They need rules and boundaries about how to properly interact, they need to be reminded right from wrong, and need to understand consequences for actions. These continue to be the basics of child development and are needed even more so in this ever-changing technology environment. Let us all take this as a reminder to monitor, learn and be aware of our children’s activities and interactions both online and off-line. And a reminder to take plenty of selfies with your child to capture these precious years on film…or more likely on iCloud.

Below are some helpful links on how to stay informed and connected with your children and their technological world.

i-Rules – Janell Burley Hofmann – spoke at Derby earlier this year

Tech Savvy Parenting – Brian Housman – resources

Family Online Safety Institute – Sponsored by Google, Facebook, Sprint

Tips for Parenting in the Digital Age – Sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics

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