Monday, February 3, 2014

A Gen Xer’s L.A.M.E. Attempt at Raising Digital Natives

Cable TV, Atari, landlines with twisty cords, call waiting. These things were high tech in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, my formative childhood years. Computers in every home? Take your science fiction fantasy elsewhere, bub. Over time, as computer technology progressed I mastered word  processing, desktop computers and the Internet. And today, while I’m certainly not a digital whiz, I do ok with my various devices and apps. I got my digital savvy going on.

But Holy Mother of Electronics do things get a whole lot more complicated when lifesuckers kids enter picture! You see, I’m a Gen Xer raising two Digital Natives. My twin peeps turned 7 last month. They barely remember that we used to have a phone plugged into a wall jack.  Trying to describe to them a world in which smartphones, apps, touch screens and computers didn’t exist (“When I was your age …) really freaks them out. With three computers, four smartphones (long story), a SmartTV and a tablet in the house, my husband and I thought we were doing pretty well. Until our peeps started interacting with other peoples’ peeps. Our electronics can’t hold a fiber optic cable to what their friends own: tablets, iPhones, iPads, gaming systems. You name it, someone their age has it. Blows. My. Gen X-ing. Mind. Not to mention, I don’t have the guts to entrust my peeps unsupervised with devices that cost as much as a car payment.

The Gen Xer in me wants to scream, “Give them a book!” But the educated professional in me knows Digital Natives need to develop digital skills now so they are prepared to go out into the world and be productive members of society later (like in 11 years. 18 and gone, baby.)

On the other hand, I worry about allowing them too much screen time. And depending on which expert I listen to, using computer time as a reward is either totally acceptable or as damaging as sticking kids outside slathered with anything less than 100 SPF sunscreen.

Even if I wanted to put more restrictions on their screen time, I’m in a bind because pretty much everything they do at school is tied to a computer. As I type this, I’m looking at four different sheets of paper listing four different school-related online programs and their log ins (actually, multiple those numbers by 2). Additionally, our district is progressing toward the flipped classroom style of learning. Poof! The fine line between leisure and academic just imploded. Or was that my head?

We do have a system in place to (attempt) to keeps things under control. And truth be told, most of the games the peeps play encourage creativity, critical thinking, role playing, problem solving and development of social etiquette skills. (I can justify pretty much anything). Some of their favorites are Animal Jam and Minecraft. With my husband, they play NetHack. And I found this article, 3 Things Parents Should Know About Video Games and Kids by Jordan Shapiro. It really helped me get a grip and eased my angst about the peeps and technology.  

And, I created this little acronym to help me out. Perhaps you will find it useful, too. It’s L.A.M.E.

Learn: Stay on top of what my kids are doing online. Spend time with them while they are on the computer, and educate myself about the positives and negatives of technology.

Accept: Times are a’changin.’ We will never again know a world without high tech technology, so deal.

Manage: I am the parent. It’s my job to help the peeps make good choices and manage their time both online and offline.

Embrace: The online world is full of possibilities, explorations and adventures!

By the way, as I was typing this, my husband walked by. He’s the Director of IT at his company. He said that the pressure of managing our systems at home was way more stressful that at his job.

How about you? If you are a Gen Xer in a Digital Native’s world, I’d love to hear how you are transition to all technology, all the time.

Wherever your are, what ever you’re doing … Keep It Real.

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