Since it’s National Poetry Month, I decided to write a few amusing verses about digital kids and the connected world. You are welcome to attach this poem, with attribution, to any new device that a member of your family receives. Enjoy!
Congrats on acquiring a new mobile device,
Have fun working and playing, but here’s some advice.
With your friends or relations who, like you, love the web
You’ll connect with so much, you’ll feel like a celeb!
But remember! When you work, play, or hangout online,
You must understand when you need to decline.
Kids often forget while using devices
That it’s easy to get caught in another kid’s vices.
The minute a child gets that first web-connected mobile device, the adults in the family commit themselves to extended digital life “swimming lessons.”
Young swimmers become increasingly competent and skilled while at the same time needing adult support, supervision, and occasional intervention. Twenty-first Century digital natives require the same parental attention and guidance as they learn to operate safely and adroitly in the connected world waters. Swimming and connected-world activities, though they require long-term adult oversight, help children explore the world around them and gain confidence, learn new things and grow their abilities, learn to make good decisions and yes, avoid making bad ones. The key to their success is adult support.
Anonymity presents digital kids with a complicated social obstacle — one they must confront and understand if they are to protect themselves from potential problems. Digital anonymity is not a friendly concept for growing children. I’d argue, in fact, that it’s downright dangerous, but app makers continue to offer the feature. For now these apps are a part of many digital kids’ daily lives, often negatively affecting their digital wellness.
No child with a connected device is immune from possible trouble caused by anonymity, because issues can arise in an instant, often as a part of routine online social interactions. Anonymous opportunities take advantage of kids’ developing brains, encouraging them to make public mistakes in judgment, and enabling young people, sometimes as young as third or fourth grade, to act and communicate with less and less restraint. A mistake made with an app’s anonymity feature can be hurtful or humiliating.
While most kids carefully follow the rules that parents and teachers set out — no names, addresses, telephone numbers, or other personal information — when it comes to the big privacy picture, it turns out that many children understand very little about their personal data, how it accumulates, and how it affects privacy. (Check out my privacy links at the end of this post.)
Thus we need an alternate privacy teaching strategy that helps 21st Century kids — all ages really — understand how their digital-world data accumulates — even when users observe the all-important safety rules.
A recent study, about parents, children and the technology rules that families adopt will be a terrific resource for schools and parent groups to share. Most parts of the research paper are fairly easy to read as are two articles, one from the University of Washington and the other from the University of Michigan. The research findings, with an extra focus on children’s expectations, are full of discoveries and observations that schools may want to share, almost word for word, with the parents of digital kids.
Alexis Hiniker and Julie A. Kientz at the University of Washington and Sarita Y. Schoenebeck at the University of Michigan conducted the study about digital life rules that parents make and enforce and the expectations that digital kids and their parents have of one another. A National Science Foundation research grant supported the academic work.
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.
If you teach or think a lot about digital citizenship, take a few minutes to get acquainted with Connecting Wisely in the Digital Age. This new book is simple yet powerful, with content and context for adults who seek to support and mentor 21st Century digital kids. The goal is to help children develop a deeper understanding of the responsibilities that accompany their connected lives.