In case you missed it this past summer, take a moment to read Why Kids Care More About Achievement Than Helping Others, an article by Jessica Lahey. The June 2014 Atlantic piece describes a research project that surveyed 10,000 middle and high schoolers, asking them to rate achievement, happiness, and caring for others in order of importance. By far, students ranked achievement and happiness over caring for other people.
The article notes that many parents believe they are sending strong messages about values such as respect, caring, and kindness, yet the study illustrates a disconnect between what parents think they say is important and how their children interpret their parents’ messages. The students tended to believe that their parents rated achievement the highest.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that whenever a new technology feature comes into vogue, children and adolescents come into possession of digital skills in want of copious adult tutelage.
Or at least this should be universally acknowledged.
Just now, in my part of the world, we are in the midst of an Instagram beauty contest phase. Interestingly, however, parents and educators who have spent the past 10 years connected in any way to the teen-tween digital world will recognize that, at a minimum, this is actually beauty contest 3.0.
I recall two other student beauty contest episodes, each occurring on a different digital playground. Initially, they appeared on make-your-own websites, then on MySpace. Now we have Instagram.
As I said the other morning to a concerned mom, behaviors get recycled each time a neat new whiz-bang digital opportunity emerges. Typical kid behavior gets paired with a powerful app, but mostly without the benefit of that adult tutelage referred to above. Also, kids love contests so it’s natural that the idea comes up.
Children are growing up in two worlds. Families and schools now have two childhood environments to supervise — face-to-face and the digital — and kids are learning and playing in two places, irrevocably intertwined. School and home guidance acclimate children mostly to the face-to-face world, assuming that the lessons automatically carry over to digital endeavors. They don’t.