Given the chance, 21st Century kids can offer remarkable insight that helps parents understand more about the digital world. Children are eager to help their mothers and fathers become more effective digital citizens – but it’s not always easy!
I’ve overheard my students reflect thoughtfully (and sometimes not so thoughtfully) on their parents’ digital world behavior. Not infrequently these children wonder aloud:
How come my parents do things that they tell me not to do?
In her book The Big Disconnect, Catherine Steiner-Adair writes that digital kids of all ages want their parents to model digital skills that blend with family life rather than interfere with it. Listen to the author talk about her book on the NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show.
Throughout The Big Disconnect, but especially in her chapter “Scary, Crazy and Clueless,” Steiner-Adair turns much of the prose over to children – pre-adolescents, and teens – who pointedly explain the roles that they want parents to adopt in the 21st Century family world. She also offers strategies that can help parents strengthen digital age relationships with their children. The author’s insight into family dynamics can help parents and kids simultaneously enjoy the wonders of the digital world while remembering to incorporate non-digital experiences – those all-important activities that build stronger family relationships and encourage communication.
While my fifth graders are not published authors, they also offer, in the form of questions, some pretty good advice to parents. Over the years, as I’ve moved in and out of classrooms sharing information about technology learning tools and digital citizenship, I’ve overheard students ask pointed, but reasoned questions about digital parenting.
The children who ask these questions understand that family life fine-tuning needs to occur in our increasingly digital lives.
To learn even more, parents can read several other books that focus on the transformative digital changes in our world. All three authors offer information, insight, imagination, and strategies that can help adults build stronger 21st Century family connections.
Or we can just put away the digital devices a few times each day, sit down with the nearest fifth grader (or any age child), share, listen well, and gain lots more perspective on balancing family relationships and digital life.
Cover image courtesy of Flickr.