Digital natives or digitally naïve?

Are you continually amazed at how your toddler seems to intuitively know whether to swipe, tap or click their way to successfully navigate an app they set eyes on only a few seconds ago?  Techopedia, the encyclopedia of all things technology-related, calls such individuals ‘Digital Natives’ – individuals “born after the widespread adoption of digital technology.”

While there is plenty of research that tells us limiting the use of technology and increasing the amount of free play (preferably outdoors!) is something we as parents should actively be encouraging, there is no getting away from the fact that the digital world is already playing a huge role in our children’s lives.

Honestly, when was the last time your child looked anything up in a book?  I would guess they either typed a search in Google, or that they asked Siri (I have lost track of how many times my daughter has asked Siri, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”).

No matter how hard you try to limit their exposure to the internet, there will come a time when they “need to use it for my research project.”  As parents, though, this does not mean that we bow out and let Siri become their best friend.  Just the opposite in fact.  Whether you believe that the news has always been skewed or not, there is no doubt that with a 24-hour news feed in the form of Facebook, Twitter and even the major news networks, creating a buzz around a story is what makes headlines (although that is a little old-fashioned – these days it’s about getting ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ – ask your kids if you’re unsure what these terms mean).

And it is here that lies the dilemma.  While our kids these days are super-tech-savvy, they will also believe just about anything, as long as it is exciting enough.  I am constantly reminding my daughter that Justin Bieber is not going to be impressed with her (or any of her friends) miming to a song, no matter how catchy it is.  The threat of online predators continues to be a major concern and something we are all struggling to get on top of.

What might seem to us something that is so preposterous that there is no way our kids could think it is true to them is simply thrilling.  Then I have to remind myself that only last year she still believed in Santa Claus and the year before that she was desperate to get a hug from the person in the cute killer whale costume at SeaWorld.

My point?  The purpose of this little blog was not to try and give all the answers, but to get us parents thinking about how we can help them safely and responsibly navigate the online world.  Just because they are now besties with Siri that doesn’t mean we no longer have a role when it comes to the information they are absorbing, it just means we have a different (more complicated?) one.  And I haven’t even started on ‘Fake News’ …