Fifteen years ago, I remember visiting my friend John and being shocked to see his toddler reach for his computer’s mouse. Worried she might break something I warned my friend. He went on to explain to me that though she might not know what a computer was, she understood much of what it did. Further, she was quickly learning what she needed to do to get it to do what she wanted. And then we watched for a bit while she played with the computer mouse, mimicking what she had seen her parents do.
And thus was my first experience with “Digitally Native Children”.
Innovation News Daily recently reported on a panel discussing “Raising Digitally Native Children” at this year’s SXSW music, film, and interactive festival/conference in Austin, Texas. As the parent of a six-year old (or “six-and-a-half” if you ask my daughter), I can well relate to the questions posed by and to parents who want to give their children as many advantages as they can with technology without ruining them in the process.
Some of the topics they discussed (and I often ask myself) include: What technology should I expose my child to and when is it appropriate? For how long should I allow daily interaction with technology, especially when I use it all day long myself? (BTW, click here for one of my favorite Off The Mark cartoons on the subject) How can I teach my child to guard herself from the bad and embrace only the good in an anything-goes digital world? How can she know the difference?
Here’s an example I recently faced. Someone forwarded to us the famous Charlie video where an adorable little British boy sticks his finger in his baby brother’s mouth and is promptly bitten by the laughing child… “Chauulee bit me! And it huurt!”. My daughter loved that video, watching it over and over, and soon was viewing other funny baby videos on YouTube. Thinking this safe, my wife and I soon focused on other things.
This went on for a few minutes until we realized she was no longer watching funny babies, but rather watching an instructional video on how to breastfeed a baby. And this wasn’t someone talking about it, this was someone showing how it’s done. Egad! We weren’t especially concerned about her seeing this natural part of life, but we steered her away from YouTube at that moment in fears of what the next video might be.
And that’s the crux of it. How can you responsibly and positively expose your child to something that is so beneficial and so important when that very same something can become an equally destructive force? I suppose all parents in every time period have faced that question, balancing out the need to prepare our children for life while shielding them from severe harm.
I’m certainly no expert. Some days I feel like I’m making it up as I go. But there are a few truths I’ve learned along the way. As a Christ-follower, I try to teach our daughter those principles that will enhance her life and how to recognize and avoid practices which will lead her to harm. I also try to take a long-term view. I’m not raising a child, after all; I’m raising a woman. What can I do now that will help position her to successfully learn and grow into the next stage of life – and ultimately to become a strong, confident, and successful woman, prepared, ready, and eager to take the world by the horns?
So, if you’re a parent, what do you do to help guide your Digitally Native Children?