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Are You Raising Digital Natives or Digital Naïves?

Are You Raising Digital Natives or Digital Naïves?

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Five Tips to Protect Your Child from Digital Dangers

A couple gathers their closest friends and family around the table. The couple is excited, nervous, anxious, and full of joy, all at the same time.

“We’re expecting!” they yell.

Cheers and tears of joy typically follow this pronouncement with congratulatory hugs being shared among guests. What was once a traditional moment to be shared and remembered by all present is a fading tradition for many of today’s young couples.

Most of today’s announcements are shared in 140 characters or less, with a short video, or image. Just as technology plays a role in our daily lives, technology is being integrated in all aspects of our lives.

From the moment of confirmed conception, you know the picture of the proud soon-to-be mom sharing her "+" (positive pregnancy test) via social media, we socialize our yet-to-be born children online. Next are the growing baby-bump and nursery preparation images. Until one day, we see what we have been waiting for. The social media post from the delivery room. Sometimes we see a clean, cuddly baby and sometimes we see a crying, still attached, straight-from-the-womb newborn.

Every "first" the new bundle of joy has will be documented forever in social media archives with words, sounds, and both still and moving pictures – the first new family photo, first snuggle with the big sister, first bottle, first diaper change, first car ride, first nap on your shoulder, first trip to grandma and grandpas, first smile, first giggle, and first swipe on a smart phone or tablet. I know you have seen it; the image of an infant or toddler "playing" on the device du jour.

And it doesn’t stop there. We see images of toddlers being potty trained holding an iPhone and images of toddlers or young children having a "play-date," yet each child is holding his or her own tablet and not interacting with the other child. Or the family is at the restaurant sitting around the table, each one staring at the screens of their favorite device, while all but ignoring the physical presence of their most cherished family members just an arm's-length away.

Clearly, as a society we are raising Digital Natives. But we are also raising Digital Naïves.

When we hand our youngest children smart phones and tablets to keep them entertained, we are missing something. We are missing the opportunity to ingrain cyber ethics into their developing minds, the minds of the next generation. It is hard to read, watch or listen to news media today without hearing of a tragic or unfortunate event related to technology.

What happens if you teach your child about security, privacy, empathy, bully response, screen-time balance, and other aspects of cyber ethics starting at three years old? Perhaps we will raise a generation that knows how to deal with over-sharing on social media, cyber bullying, online enticement of minors, and online trolls. Perhaps we will have fewer instances of bully-suicides, missing children, and revenge porn.

But how?

  • First, model appropriate behavior. Yes, that means putting the phone down while at a meal with family and friends and other social situations. But it also means being thoughtful of the pictures you take and post. What do you think those images are telling your children?
  • Second, talk to your children. Find out what their favorite game or app is. Ask if they interact with other players, and if so, how? Ask questions that help your child learn. For example, instead of telling your child, “Don’t communicate with strangers in an app.” Ask them, “Why do you think it is not a good idea to share information with someone you met through an app or game?”
  • Third, start reading books geared to young children at about age three (or whenever they stop EATING books) that teach cyber safety and awareness. When they get older, around five or six, they will understand more of the nuances behind the core concepts.
  • Fourth, talk to your family and friends and have them help raise their children to be savvy cyber kids, just as you are striving to do. Why? Even if you do everything in your power to educate and protect your child, what happens when they go to a friend’s or family member’s house who isn’t raising their children to be cyber aware?
  • Fifth, remember there is no silver bullet to raising your kids in a world full of technology. What it takes is your time and dedication as a parent to use the resources available to you.

So, put down your phone, look your child in the eye, tell them you love them and give them a big kiss. No technology can do that.

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (7) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Thanks for sharing this, Ben. Are you familiar with the Hands Free Revolution? ( I think you'd like what she has to say. I wonder if there are books you'd recommend for this point: "Third, start reading books geared to young children at about age three (or whenever they stop EATING books) that teach cyber safety and awareness." I'm not familiar with any specific titles on this subject.

Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Thanks for writing this! My daughters are very young now, not 3 yet. However, your comment that we should start at a young age, as young as 3 is important (she stopped eating books a few months ago :)). We let her use her ipad for a word app that's really great, but for a set amount of time and supervised at all times of course. I find that the conversation is more so focused on virtual vs reality when it comes to tech rather than anything else. At such a young age, toddlers have a hard time recognizing what they're seeing on their ipads is not real. So the conversation is triggered by that. if you have resources for that age please share, it would be very valuable.

Ben Halpert - Savvy Cyber Kids's picture

Thank you so much for the comment! You have an advanced learner on your hands..already stopped eating books!! I wrote and published a book series through the nonprofit Savvy Cyber Kids for our earliest learners, The Savvy Cyber Kids at Home, that covers many cyber ethics concepts. Would love to hear your daughters reaction to you reading her the books! You can find the details of the books here:

Ben Halpert - Savvy Cyber Kids's picture

Thanks Laura! Indeed I do like what she has to say!!

Through the non-profit Savvy Cyber Kids, I published books dealing with cyber ethics concepts for children starting at three years old. The current books in the children's picture book series, The Savvy Cyber Kids at Home, are:

The Family Gets a Computer
Defeat of the Cyber Bully
Adventures Beyond the Screen

You can read the details about each title here:

Would love to hear your feedback once you have had a chance to review!

Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Thank you for sharing, i will definitely take a look!

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