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A Conversation: Guiding Our Tweens’ Digital Lives

Well over two-thirds of parents say “parenting is harder today,” than it was 20 years ago – mainly because of technology (Pew Research, 2020). Screentime, social media, and the very (tumultuous) nature of tweens can combine to create the perfect storm for parenting in the digital age. But knowing what motivates our tweens, and how we can manage the Internet that surrounds all of us, may be part of the antidote. 

Young people, including tweens, are often referred to as “digital natives”. This term, coined by Marc Prensky in 2001, is used to describe young people who grow up surrounded by digital technologies. However, just because they may be born with a device in-hand, does not necessary equate to being naturally tech-savvy. While most of us may agree that our kids are better at navigating technology than we are, we may also agree that this does not mean they know how to do so wisely. As such, some prefer to use the term, “digital naives,” precisely because young people are not aware of the perils that lurk on the internet. In fact, some of of adults may feel digitally naive at times. We are constantly having to learn how to avoid scams, traverse the barrage of misinformation, and protect our identity since most of our business transactions occur online.

The pandemic seems to have speeded up the timeline of the digital lives of our children. We became so highly dependent on technology because just about every aspect of our daily routines were impacted: virtual doctor appointments, touchless menus, and virtual school were a ubiquitous part of our environments. For better or worse, these virtual exchanges allowed us to keep on living somewhat “normally,” while the world was physically shut down. Today,  it seems that almost no aspect of our lives is left untouched by digital-ness

In her book, Screenwise, Devorah Heitner encourages us to mentor our children, guiding them through the constantly evolving world of their digital lives. We couldn’t agree more. To this end, we rely on our Gillispie ICARE Values to frame our digital citizenship practices at school. Our goal is to help foster a healthy, positive attitude towards technology where our students feel empowered to make good decisions. This is never a one-and-done event and requires frequent, subtle to overt reminders in our classrooms and beyond.

Two, parent workshops were held in May 2022 to engage our parents and community members in conversation about guiding our children’s digital lives. If you’d like to learn more about upcoming workshops on parenting and our children’s digital lives, please reach out to our Director of Technology, Lisa Hasler Waters, PhD, [email protected]

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