Thursday, July 30, 2015

My/Your Digital Generation

Summer, we are at the pool, relaxing. My son Asaf (19) looks around the pool eyeing many of adults on their smartphones. Not only adults but many. And yes, it did include me.

He says, "everybody complains about my generation, the way we focus on all things digital. Your generation is worse."

"You adapted every new technology quickly and thoroughly. You are the ones that afforded the first iPhones, tablets, and every little thing that comes out. You are the real YouTube generation because you had a choice, and you chose this!"

I love it when my kids have insights like this. And yes for a long time I have felt this way as well. I hear many adults calling for less use of technology in schools and at home. They reject the role technology can play at school feeling that it is just games, fun and not serious enough. They are afraid that our children will not move, not be creative. I admit that as adults, we have the obligation to protect our children even from the things we are doing/ have done. But at the same time we must remember that personal example is very influential. And so for me two questions remain as we educate the next generation:

1. If we lead by example, then we lead by showing appropriate and balanced uses of devices not lack of use. We must first look at ourselves and our practices. Do they mirror what we want our kids to learn or are we around the pool checking our smartphones?

2. We must ask ourselves what we are protecting our children/ students from? The old data about screen time is out of sync with digital realities and in many ways we still don't know much about the impact of new practices. Some like the American Academy of Pediatrics publishes concerns and limitations. They take the defensive approach if we don't know, let's not do it. This method works well for medicine, not so much for everyday well-being. The two questions that must follow are: what will kids be doing with this time? And what will they be missing if they do not have digital lives? Will they be ready to be citizens of the 21st century?

3. We must ask ourselves if when making an argument about screentime at school we are in fact making a class based argument. It may be that we are saying: "My middle class, son of a professional, student is getting enough digital exoerience and guideline at home therefore he and all other students do not need to spend time on it in school.

My son Asaf looked at me and added: "Yes, it's your generation, but it is especially you." I smiled: "I am ok with that." Later that evening, he was using three screens: A Netflix movie on the TV, a video game on his laptop, and the BBC news on his phone.

I wonder what his kids will do.

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