Parents and educators can learn a lot about children’s digital lives — and the importance of helping young people develop strong digital citizenship skills — by listening to a series of broadcasts from National Public Radio (NPR) on raising digital natives (also available in print). The radio reports focus on children’s experiences in daily connected life and present wide-ranging information about the responsibilities of parenting 21st Century digital kids. All of the stories are posted at All Tech Considered blog, but I’ve included links for each story below.
The entire set of news stories, shared by a number of different NPR reporters, contains information that can help parents and educators think more carefully about how to strengthen their roles in children’s lives.
Many times each year parents and teachers ask me for examples of agreements and contracts that can help families focus on digital life expectations and limits-setting. Some individuals seek a pre-written document to use with their children, while others hope to design and write a document expressly for their families.
These agreements, contracts, or pledges, cover the gamut of 21st Century digital world behavior, from cell phones, to online access, to texting, web 2.0, social media, cyber-bullying, and digital citizenship.
The conversation and preparation that contribute to developing a family agreement or contract are often more important than the final document. In these family discussions, parents will need to arm themselves with information about digital natives, address values, and encourage common sense. Parents will also need to help their children think about what to do in unexpected situations, and encourage them to speculate on how to cope with friends who encourage them to misbehave. The more personal and relevant the agreement, the better.
Then, too, adults should understand that the preparation and writing process is not a one-way street. A child may make a pointed observation or come up with a thoughtful idea about the digital issues contained in the agreement. Perhaps he or she feels strongly about certain types of access, time limits, or other parental expectation. Maybe there are compelling reasons to grant access to one site or another, even though the parent has reservations.
Check out Danah Boyd’s short commentary, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly … and the Internet in Boston Magazine. In the June 15, 2012 piece Boyd describes how fears about children’s safety have curtailed their time out in the real, face-to-face world for several generations. Today many parents have transferred their fears into the digital world.
Boyd points out that many serious behavioral issues, bullying, for instance, have been and continue to be huge problems. Yet they tend to be more frequent and serious face-to-face than in the digital world (though the digital problems get more media coverage). As one of the most well-regarded observers of teen social networking behavior, Boyd conducts research for Harvard’s Berkman Center and for Microsoft.
I know a lot about technology. I’ve taught people from preschool to aging seniors. I write blogs, participate in social media sites, and love my e-mail. I know enough to keep my digital accounts out of danger, until now, that is …
On Thursday early evening, I came home, terribly tired — maybe too tired to work on technology tasks. With a cup of tea, I sat down to look over my blogs and Twitter account where I discovered a funny message, from someone I know and respect. That Tweet reported on a not-so-nice Tweet about me, and I only needed to click on the link to check it out.
Now I have been teaching digital common sense and responsibility for nearly 20 years. I have made presentations to kids, parents, teachers, church members, seniors, and even newly arrived immigrants about taking care, not opening attachments, and not clicking on links. But in this case, I did not even think about it. I clicked, and the naughty link did its work, sending out copies of the message to every one of my followers.