Beat them or join them? You don’t really have an option when it comes to technology and the young generation.
Technology has propelled young people into a new social world, and is relentlessly advancing, There are still those who believe that parenting and schooling youngsters through the disruption involves gatekeeping, limit setting, search history checking and removal of devices as a primary response. In other words, the Boomers and the GenX just don’t get it yet.
Socialising on a device!
The use of technology to fulfil social needs has opened our children up to experiencing a host of challenges the tech-free youth never had to navigate. There is a cyber culture that exists and is thriving. There are group dynamics on an undefined playing field.
Symbols are the new ‘body language’ – not a failed emotional intelligence. There is bonding and collegiality, romance and animosity in the digital dimension of human interaction, as much as in the face-to-face. By simply attempting to shut down / remove / isolate as a mechanism to understand and support our youth, we are failing to be the adults they need us to be.
Cyber Bullying and other challenges of technology
Digital media technologies have created new social contexts and, in some cases, altered existing ones. Along with the potential benefits and opportunities, this explosion of technology brings several challenges that require our attention. The salient points raised:
- Cyber bullying is not tightly defined yet.
- Cyber bullying can mean devastation and we need to get a feel for it.
- In defining it, we need to understand intent, the repetition (i.e., how big is the audience?), the power differential at play and the extent of the relational aggression involved.
- Our young people are ‘always on’.
- The persistence of the aggression is a further factor.
- Young people will not tell adults (parents or teachers) when they are being bullied in cyber space, as our default position is to take the tech away. This is not helpful. Rather, we are imposing social suicide.
- We need to support, understand, and guide a response that is empowering and relevant.
Digital Footprints: the technology masterminds
Today’s youth are relating to others everywhere and anywhere, 24/7/365. They need support in the form or relationship etiquette in this reality. Regardless of ‘privacy settings’ their posts and interactions are networked publicly, and these are stored for a period undetermined by themselves. These communications are replicable and searchable. Every online user is making a digital footprint that has the potential to shadow them forever.
Parents: join them and get in the technology #know!
So, with the above in mind, how do we get over our denial as adults, our ‘ban the device’ mentality and, in truth, our fear?
- We develop critical thinking in our youth.
- We teach and coach digital citizenship no differently to how we teach manners and common decency.
- We respect privacy and yet build a secure relationship with the child or adolescent that includes trust.
- We get involved. We join their world in our own way to develop an understanding of some of the complexities our children are experiencing.
- We are available to our children. In person and perhaps 24/7.
We can’t lead the next generation safely into a world that is not going away if we don’t know what that world is. More than any hashtag out there, we need to embrace #know!
Alison Scott, the author of this article is executive principle of Bellavista School. Click here for more information about this remarkable school
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