As parents and educators, we quickly come to understand how stories help young people learn.
Unfortunately, when it comes to digital parenting and digital citizenship, we do not have many positive children’s stories — the kind you can sit down and read with a child. We know what we want children to learn as they grow up and use more and more digital devices in a connected world. We are also gradually coming to understand that citizenship and digital citizenship are one and the same.
We need lots more stories that illustrate the way digital life should be lived — stories that we can share with 21st Century children when they are young.
One small contribution to the genre is The Von Awesome Family in a Digital Daze, a book written by social media activist and mom Andrea Gribble. The story explains how young daughter Zoey tries to get family members to play with her, but they are all — including her mom — too engaged in various digital devices and activities to stop and play basketball.
In the story, Zoey’s mom, who also ignores her daughter at first, soon realizes that the family needs to address the problem of digital distraction. She gathers family members together to devise digital guidelines that everyone can understand and use. As a group, the family develops these guidelines — for kids and adults — to ensure that digital activities balance out with family face-to-face interaction and attention.
The story makes three points to children — balance your life, speak up to distracted adults, and work together as a family to set boundaries and rules — all without a focus on digital device mistakes or scary videos. Moreover, it reminds adults, right in front of their kids, to put down those digital devices when kids are around.
So much of the time we end up communicating our expectations by focusing on kids’ problems and mistakes and adults’ fears and worries. In addition, we are easily distracted. Read the most recent article on the topic, Addicted to Distraction: How I Lost and Found My Focus.
It’s up to the grown-ups to set the best behavior examples for children in preschool through grade five. Right now adults who truly want their children to know how to respect, balance, collaborate, converse, listen, imagine, and persevere need to put down those devices and mentors their kids.