“This was Daddy’s phone when he was a little boy. It has no videos; just words.”
It has recently occurred to me that we have a unique situation on the horizon; a situation that has never been faced by any parent before us. We have to teach our kids technology and specifically social media. We are probably the first generation to have enough of a grip on it to actually take control and teach it to our children. This is a new opportunity for us to be intentional parents. It’s not a strategy that we can plagiarize from our own parents. This is totally new.
I am 30 years old. Parents who are just a few years older than me, probably didn’t have an email account until they were out of college. That means they didn’t even have the option to join Facebook until 2006. I’m guessing they were not very proficient at personal technology and social media when they began parenting their children.
However, If you’re around my age, you’ve got a pretty good grasp on how it all works. We grew up alongside this technology. Like me, you probably remember the first time you got on the internet. For me, it was AOL in a friend’s basement…sounds sketchy now but in the beginning, it was simple and pure. I can remember the first time I heard “You’ve got mail” and that crackly dial tone followed by the rapid tones of numbers being dialed. That was a strange new world, yet now it seems archaic.
Pretty soon, home computers, email and chat rooms morphed into smart phones, texting and social media.
We were just kids but we navigated the new world of personal technology along with our parents. But being younger than them, we caught on and kept up easier. We had Facebook before our parents because it was created for people like us. We taught our parents how to use their iPhones, and if you’re anything like me, you are still fielding technology and social media questions from your parents on a regular basis.
We, however, are about to raise the first generation who has never known life without personal technology and social media. The first generation who has never known life without iPhones, Facebook and SnapChat. Siri, GPS and texting will be as natural to them as breathing.
The bottom line is:
Their virtual life will be such an integral part of their real life, they may not know the difference.
I think we need to be intentional and teach our children how to handle personal technology and social media. And we need to start early.
(Not just for their safety…that’s a given. Personal technology offers so many opportunities for dangerous situations, not only predators, but bullying, pornography and just plain ‘ole ugliness.)
What I’m talking about leans more toward old fashion manners and being grounded in a “Cloud”-obsessed society.
I’m talking about being able to look someone in the eye and shake hands even better (and more frequently) than you send a text or pin a Pin.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to work along-side some teenagers and I’ve been astonished at the fact that they seemingly can’t function without a phone in their hand. They don’t seem to know when to put it away and that’s a problem.
It’s our job to teach our children how to use the tools that will be available to them. It’s our job to take manners beyond the table and into cyberspace. It’s our job to teach them about real life, real problems and real people as opposed to their virtual counterparts.
Parents have never (knowingly) faced these challenges before.
We may be somewhat dependent upon technology but we (hopefully) view it as an accessory rather than our life-line.
Our children, however, will know nothing else.
And based on our example, what are they supposed to think?
Do they think my iPhone is one of my body parts?
Do they think it’s okay to have hundreds of Facebook friends but not know our next door neighbor?
What do my actions say is most important to me: My family or my phone?
Let’s decide to be intentional now. Let’s decide what’s most important and let our actions reflect it. Let’s emphasize real relationships and real interactions. Let’s look at more faces than screens. Let’s require politeness…real and virtual. Let’s teach our children how to live real lives and not just technological ones.
Now here’s where the rubber meets the road…what can we do in real life to be intentional about teaching technology to our children? I’m already working on Part 2 of this post where I will share some things that our family is trying. I’d love to hear your thoughts–we’re in this together!
Please leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll include your ideas in Part 2.