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Parents Must Step Up to the Technology Challenge!

Are you leading or following in your children's use of technology?

It’s hard enough these days for parents to even keep up with all of the latest technological developments. It’s even harder to stay informed of the latest research on the effects of technology on our children. In our already incredibly busy lives, it’s downright exhausting trying to stay abreast of what technology our children are using and how it is affecting them. It’s nigh impossible to be able to separate the healthy from the unhealthy influences.

Yet, we as parents must look long and hard at the relationships that our children are developing with technology as “digital natives.” This juncture in our society’s history is critical because, due to the rapid pace of technological change, we simply can’t know how these wide-ranging influences will impact our children or our society. To bury our heads in the sand would be irresponsible at best and catastrophic at worst. We must recognize that there are heightened dangers and heightened opportunities in all that this wired world has to offer. If we get this wrong, we may very well have a world of zombies that used to be our children!

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But seriously, without scrutinizing closely the impact of technology on our children, we are putting them at risk for whatever unforeseen threats we allow them to be exposed to, for example, cyberbullying, sexting, inappropriate content, and privacy concerns, and we have only ourselves to blame.

At the same time, this digital world is teeming with incredible opportunities. Social media, for example, offers children the prospects for increased individual and collaborative creativity, social connections, community involvement, exposure to diverse people, new learning experiences, and the development of essential technological skills. Just imagine who the super humans of the future will be. If we can harness all of the amazing technology that lies at our children’s fingertips and make sure they are used as plowshares not swords, we give our children the chance to become those super humans who will flourish as we move deeper into the 21st century.

This goal leaves several difficult questions that we as parents must ask. Can we tease out the benefits that technology has to offer while protecting our children from its harmful influences? Can we really understand and consciously manage the technology in which our children will be immersed, while balancing other academic, physical, artistic, physical, and spiritual activities?  If your answer is “Yes, I can and yes, I will!,” then your efforts will result in raising what I can Kids 3.0, namely, children who are optimally prepared to thrive in this increasingly connected world. If, however, your answer is “No” or “I’m not sure,” then you are potentially opening your children up to a world that they will be overwhelmed by and unprepared for.

The Payoff

It is not my intention to offer you a “Chicken Little” view of technology or cause you to fear for your children’s lives as they become uploaded, metaphorically speaking, into cyberspace. To the contrary, I want you to learn about all that technology has to offer, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to encourage you to seek out the knowledge that will empower you to make informed decisions about your children’s use of technology that maximizes its benefits and minimizes its potential harm.

The payoff for raising Kids 3.0 is immense. First, educating you and your children about technology so your family sees it for what it is, namely, a tool to enhance your lives rather than a force that defines them. Second, raising your children protected from these influences until they are fully prepared to use them wisely. Third, your children will be masters, instead of victims, enabling them to use technology to their fullest benefit while avoiding its many hazards. The ultimate payoff is for your children to develop into value-driven, happy, successful, and connected (in the “old school” sense) people, while also gaining an appreciation for and becoming sufficiently skilled at the technology that will come to play such a central role in their lives.

This post is excerpted from Dr. Jim Taylor’s new parenting book, Raising Generation Tech: Preparing Your Children for a Media-fueled World.

Jim Taylor, Ph.D., teaches at the University of San Francisco.

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