In a world of digital natives...
If you listen to educators talk, you might hear them use an interesting term: digital natives. Our kids and grandkids don’t know a world without computers, realistic video games, and cameras that instantly show not just one photo but store hundreds. They can have instant connections with relatives around the world via technological wonders such as Skype or Facetime.
Pint-sized cherubs are adept at clicking a few buttons or using a touch screen. Take the story of the Oregon toddler who, while playing with her father’s phone, ordered and won a car on eBay. We laugh and shake our heads at the story, marveling how quickly the youngest of children can pick up technology skills, while some of the older generation are hesitant to do so. They fear it, sometimes with good reason.
We talk about our schools “keeping up with the latest technology” so our children can keep advancing. I’m not worried about our children keeping up with technology. While I think it’s important to find the best ways for children to learn because we all learn in different ways, it’s also equally important for us to disconnect for a few moments and teach lessons in “real” communication.
Becoming too digitized is a dangerous place. We think we “connect” with someone, but we forget about true communication and problem-solving.
Most of us at a certain age know it’s hard enough to learn how to work through problems and communicate with people face-to-face, and over the last five years or so, we’re beginning to lose even the art of real-time conflict resolution.
Digitally, it’s too easy to virtually slam the door on someone when we don’t agree with them. How can we resolve conflict when children learn from their parents it’s easier to “unfriend” someone than work through a problem and talk about it?
Digitally, it’s too easy to surround ourselves with people just like us who only give us positive feedback and input. Somehow, children aren’t learning that not everyone is their number-one fan and thinks the way they do.
Digitally, it’s too easy to gossip, sling mud and badmouth about someone when they make us mad. Did you watch the video of the young twenty-something wife literally throwing a screaming fit because her husband wouldn’t take her to the lake? It wasn’t pretty, and this young woman wasted no time in digitally “running” to her group to tell her friends how mean her husband had been to her. Whether she had a valid point or not, isn’t the point here.
Digitally, it’s too easy to assume that when we disagree with someone and tell them so, we’re “hating” on them.” Isn’t that a ridiculous term? Since when does expressing our disagreement mean hatred? But that’s what our little natives are learning—from some of us.
So as we shop during the sales tax holiday, as we load those backpacks and fill lunchboxes, as we break out the containers of beautiful new crayons, maybe we should teach our children and ourselves to unplug for a few moments every day, and learn to talk about the problems we face with people.
Because one day, those little digital natives won’t just be using their technology, they’ll be the ones running our businesses, managing teams, making our laws, and teaching our grandchildren. I want those natives, once they’ve grown up, to be just as skilled in dealing with people as they are in “real life.”