I get asked a lot to come in to a community to talk about Internet Safety. I often begin these sessions by asking parents what they are most excited about and what concerns them most in terms of parenting kids in the digital age.
While many parents come to workshops worried about cyberbullying and predators, it is helpful to name out loud the opportunities unleashed by digital media. It reminds us that the goal is not only to protect young people from harm but to help them maximize the potential of these powerful tools.
In that spirit, here are five things parents say they love about digital media:
Young people can stay connected with one another and with family members in ways that we couldn’t have imagined just a generation ago. Kids can video chat with family members in other states and exchange stories with kids in other countries. We know from the research that most tweens and teens use social networking sites to deepen and strengthen their ‘real world’ friendships as opposed to hanging out with totally strangers online.
Kids can access virtual libraries with the tap of a finger and instantly access news from around the world. They can find incredible resources for school projects and can dig deep into topics that interest them. Young people can initiate their own learning and access an incredible depth of information on everything from hobbies to sports to politics.
The image of kids sitting in a room alone, watching TV is an outdated one. Today’s teens are often collaborating online with other young people. Whether it is in a gaming environment, working together on school projects, or co-creating video and audio, today’s digital youth are finding new ways to draw on each other’s ideas, skills, and creativity as they work together online.
Every generation of young people is asking important questions about who they are and who they want to be. Self-expression and identity development are part of the important work of growing up. Digital tools enable young people to share their creativity, express themselves, and find ways to explore their “spark.”
Young people have myriad ways today to take action around issues they care about in their community. Whether it is national politics or neighborhood issues, young people can “have voice” in the issues that they care about. Getting involved in community-based projects, youth groups, and local politics using digital technology can help kids develop 21st century skills like problem solving, strategizing, critical thinking, and planning.
Here's to raising creative, informed, connected, collaborative and action-oriented digital citizens!