Every 21st Century parent needs a holiday digital parenting checklist that describes the tasks to accomplish between purchasing a new digital device and watching a child gleefully unwrap it. This list gives parents a head start, identifying challenges, offering explanations, anticipating problems, and most importantly, setting the stage for responsible and respectful use of exciting but extraordinarily powerful devices.
The time adults spend preparing for new devices that enter a family’s life is well spent and spending that time up front may well prevent a huge time drain later on after a your child experiences a connected world problem. Parents are simultaneously guides, limits setters, and lifeguards, whether or not they know as much about digital life as their children.
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.
Now that back-to-school nights are about over, schools will be scheduling parent potlucks, curriculum nights, and educational seminars throughout the academic year. These activities offer lots of opportunity for educational communities to start conversations about the challenges — for parents and kids — of growing up in the connected world.
At all of these events administrators, teachers, and parents should plan to incorporate a few introductory comments that encourage parents to think about helping their digital children become stronger learners, savvier digital citizens, better consumers of content on their digital devices, and overall, more knowledgeable citizens.
Below are a few questions that can be shared at school events and classroom presentations, questions that encourage parents to talk about managing life with 21st Century digital kids. While there are no right answers to these questions, the conversations provide adults an opportunity to talk about what works — and what does not — in the context of young people’s school and social lives.
While he had been fragile for some time following an accident, his extraordinary influence on teaching and learning, including how he really created the maker movement more than 25 years ago, will continue for many years to come.
Without his wisdom and vision, many educators in the school technology fields, where I spent most of my career, would not have been fortunate enough to pursue exciting and deeply meaningful vocations. Every school, every teacher, every educational technology specialist, and every K-12 technology director can trace their professional activities back to Dr. Papert’s deep understanding of the power of learning with computers and digital devices. The Media Lab remembrance page notes that:
Papert’s career traversed a trio of influential movements: child development, artificial intelligence, and educational technologies. Based on his insights into children’s thinking and learning, Papert recognized that computers could be used not just to deliver information and instruction, but also to empower children to experiment, explore, and express themselves.
One of the most difficult decisions before leaving home at any time of year is deciding what digital devices to bring along on the trip. My laptop or just the iPad? My iPad and my iPhone? My digital camera or just my iPhone? Then there are all the chargers and the surge protector with extra USB ports that I now bring along.
This summer I discovered one more digital device that I cannot live without when we travel — a tiny JAM bluetooth speaker that has big sound and darn good quality. About the same size as the small plastic drinking glass that I bring along when I am not in hotels and weighing not much more, this speaker connects with my laptop or iPad or iPhone (doesn’t matter which devices I decide to bring or not bring).
When my brother and I were growing up in the Midwest, my dad had a big sign — about one foot by two feet — with the word MODERATION. The sign sat in the living room, just off the study, so that it was impossible to miss when we were watching television, reading, doing our homework, playing games, eating, and entering or leaving the house. Dad’s goal was for us to think as often as possible about self-regulating and managing what we did each day, even when we were even engaged in a favorite (or not so favorite) activity.
Understanding the importance of moderation is increasingly critical today as we live 21st Century lives that center on the media and on the digital devices that we — and our children — carry around all day long. Read an earlier post on moderation.
You hear a lot these days about people eagerly pursuing their passions — which is great — but we don’t hear nearly as much about moderation. Understanding how to moderate and, yes, self-regulate daily activities is a digital world literacy skill for everyone at every age. For each child who cannot disconnect from Minecraft or other video games, there’s an adult, often a parent, who can’t put the phone down while taking a walk with kids or who uses the phone while driving. Everyone needs to learn how to moderate and disengage, and possessing these skills helps people develop digital strength and wellness. Continue reading “Building Habits of Moderation into the Conversation & the Curriculum”→