Bridging the Digital Divide
How can we use tech more intentionally to connect with our kids, help them use it more appropriately and keep us up to date in their world?
Most of us have heard of the term "Digital Native", which describes a person who has grown up in the digital age. The rest of us are "Digital Immigrants", we did not grow up immersed in technology in the same way and, depending on our age, have different recollections of the first time we encountered technologies that are seemingly as essential as pen and paper today. We always seem to have to work a little harder to keep up with the media our kids use because of this.
Our school age children are already incredibly digital media savvy, while it may seem that we are barely keeping up with them, there are skills and tools we can provide that stretch across all genres. Giving children access to technology is like teaching them to drive. We don't just hand over the keys to our car one day and hope for the best, they spend years driving with us, watching us buckle them in, we teach them how to be safe when they learn to cross the street or ride their bikes and then they spend time learning the road rules and how to drive. All of this information is passed to them over years. This is how we should think about devices and digital media.
What are some ways we can help bridge this divide and at the same time connect with and teach our kids? If you have very young children it can be as simple as the things we do naturally with them, giving them plenty of tech free time with you to grow their skills and feed their imaginations or actively playing a learning app together on a device. For older kids, have them teach you how to play or use an app they like, ask them questions about how the characters in the game might feel or if they would make the same choices. If you have a teen using social media, have them take you on a tour of how it works and if you don't know how to use it yourself, set up your own account and ask them questions about how to make your new account private and protected. Keep the conversations going, if they follow someone on Twitter or another social media platform, ask them why they think someone posted about what they did, how they might have been feeling at the time and how your teen might have acted differently if they were the one posting. Tour their Minecraft world or build your own with them.
My kids are very much into playing Zelda on the Nintendo Switch at the moment, they sit together and figure out the puzzles and they like to show me the horses they've caught to ride. This has made for some lively dinner conversations where they talk strategy, tell us about items they've found and what quests they have. It's fun to sit with them when they're playing, they show me how they've learned to cook food and they ask for help if they're stuck. We definitely limit their time on screens, however the time they do spend on there can show them that having fun with technology isn't just about sitting by yourself, it can be a way to connect and learn with others.
If you're interested in further reading, there are so many great books out there, some of my favorites are "Screenwise", "The Art of Screen Time" and "Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology". You could also start the conversation with other parents, ask about how they treat tech in their house and what their thoughts on it are.
I would love to hear about how your family explores tech and digital media together, also, if there are any topics you're interested on hearing about in future blog posts, leave me a suggestion!